Chicken Parmesan Pizza

chicken parmesan pizza | sunsets on the side

chicken parmesan pizza | sunsets on the side

In general, I really don’t insist on many things.

I’m not the person who insists on a certain paint color for a room…or on, say, a restaurant choice for dinner.  The restaurant thing is mostly because I’m not a picky eater and can find something I’d love to eat on almost any menu.  But, it’s also because I like it when other people are happy.  I’m a conflict avoider.

Truth.

chicken parmesan pizza dough | sunsets on the side

However.

This one time, I’m going to have to insist that you guys make this pizza.  It doesn’t have to be right now….or tomorrow…or even next week.  It requires a little bit of a time investment.  You’re making dough, you’re dredging, you’re browning, you’re grating, you’re chopping.

chicken parmesan pizza dough before | sunsets on the side

But, before this winter is over, I’m insisting you have this pizza.  It’s like a giant hug that somehow made it into your oven and then onto your plate.  It’s the best of chicken parmesan in hand-held, dough-encased form.  It’s your dinner.

chicken parmesan pizza | sunsets on the side

See, you’re not mad I insisted, right?

Chicken Parmesan Pizza
 
Author:
Makes: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • ~~~Pizza dough~~~
  • 1 (1/4 oz.) envelope rapid rise dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup warm water, divided
  • 3 cups flour
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ~~~Pizza topping~~~
  • ¾ lb. boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cup seasoned panko crumbs
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 cup pasta sauce (I used Classico)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ⅓ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
  • 6 oz. fontina, grated
Instructions
  1. Mix the yeast, sugar, and ¼ cup of the warm water together, and let it sit for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the flour, olive oil, salt and remaining ¾ cup warm water together in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture to flour mixture. Stir well and then turn out onto a floured surface and knead, adding more flour as needed, for about 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Drizzle some olive oil in a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it over so it is all coated in the oil. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let the dough rise until double in size (about 1 hour).
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper, dredge the pieces in flour, dip them in egg, and then coat them in panko crumbs.
  5. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, brown the chicken pieces, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove chicken to a plate, add an additional 1T. oil, if needed, and brown the second batch of chicken.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  7. When the dough has risen, shape it onto a baking pan (16” round or 12x18” cookie sheet both work). Leaving a 1” border, poke the middle of the crust multiple times with a fork so it doesn’t rise too much in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove crust from the oven, top it with pasta sauce (again leaving a 1” border around the outside for the crust). Top the sauce with chopped basil, chicken, parmesan, mozzarella cheese, and fontina. Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Mushroom Goat Cheese Twice-Baked Potatoes

mushroom and goat cheese twice baked potatoes | sunsets on the side

mushroom and goat cheese twice baked potatoes | sunsets on the side

Have you guys been watching as much Olympics coverage as I have?  Man, I just love the Olympics.  The competition!  The drama!  The outfits!  The network reporters making top athletes cry after medal-winning performances!

Well, not so much on the last thing.

But, the coverage has been a staple in our house for the past week and a half.  I mean, we’re DVR-ing hockey games for pete’s sake.  U-S-A!

The only thing that feels confusing is all the eating I’m doing while watching Olympics.  Is this even right?  Oh, hi…you’re cross-country skiing UP A HILL right now.  And, I’m…eating pizza.

U-S-A?

Oh well.  As it turns out, I’m not above eating twice-baked potatoes while parked on the couch in front of the men’s super-G.  I look at it as sympathy carbing for my country.

Noble.

mushroom and goat cheese twice baked potatoes | sunsets on the side

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Twice-Baked Potatoes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Makes: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 8 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 T. butter, melted
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ½ tsp. salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 4 oz. fontina, grated
  • 1 T. minced fresh dill
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pierce potatoes with a fork multiple times. Place directly on an oven rack and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until they’re cooked through and the inside is soft. Let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat with the olive oil and let cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are brown and most of their liquid has evaporated, about 7-8 minutes.
  3. When potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice each in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving enough of a border that the potato halves hold their shape, into a large mixing bowl. Set the potato skins on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Add the goat cheese, butter, milk, salt, and pepper to the potatoes. Mix with a hand mixer until completely smooth. Fold in the mushrooms, fontina, and dill. Scoop even portions of the potato mixture into the empty potato halves.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, sprinkle the tops of the potatoes evenly with parmesan cheese, and then bake an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and potatoes are heated through.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.

Baked Sausage & Fontina Sandwiches

baked sausage & fontina sandwiches | sunsets on the side

baked sausage & fontina sandwiches | sunsets on the side

These sandwiches.

I remember these sandwiches from when I was a kid.  They were “special occasion” sandwiches in that I knew just about every time they made an appearance, we were going to have company.  My mom made these a lot of nights when she hosted her card club, and she’d serve them on some family holidays, too.  (Random: why doesn’t our generation play more cards)?

baked sausage & fontina sandwich ingredients | sunsets on the side

I always figured she made these for company because they were deliciously awesome (which, they are), but they’re also the perfect thing for entertaining.  They freeze beautifully, so you can make these in anticipation of any event (big football game, perhaps?).  After you make the sandwiches and wrap them in foil, stick them in the freezer instead of the oven.  Then, just pull them out when you need them and throw them straight into the oven to bake.  Or, just make them and bake them.

Prerogative.  It’s yours.

Either way, though, something happens to these babies when they bake.  They go into the oven looking very much like an Italian version of a sloppy joe, but when they come out, the sauce has sort of baked into the bun, and they’ve turned into a melty, saucy, delectable mix of sausage and herbs.

I’ve adapted these just slightly with a different cheese (mom uses mozzarella) and some fresh basil.  Otherwise, these are the original.

baked sausage and fontina sandwiches | sunsets on the side

Baked Sausage & Fontina Sandwiches
 
Author:
Makes: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ground Italian sausage (hot or mild)
  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 3 T. finely chopped fresh basil
  • 8 French hamburger buns (or any sturdy roll)
  • 4 oz. fontina, sliced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the sausage and ground chuck in a large, non-stick skillet. Add the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook over medium heat, stirring often and breaking the meat up with your spatula, until it is cooked through (about 10-12 minutes).
  3. Remove from the heat and drain the grease from the pan.
  4. Place the skillet back over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce and oregano, and stir to combine. Simmer until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat, and stir in the basil.
  6. Spoon the meat mixture evenly onto the hamburger buns, top the meat with fontina slices, and then wrap each sandwich in foil.
  7. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Chicken & Caramelized Onion Calzones

chicken & caramelized onion calzones | sunsets on the side

chicken & caramelized onion calzones | sunsets on the side

So, I bought a pair of skinny jeans the other day…

I truly believed this would be a trend I never caved on, but much like my declaration that I’d “never” wear capris or 3/4-length sleeves, my stand against skinny jeans ended abruptly, courtesy of an after-Christmas clearance sale.

2014 is the year of trying new things, apparently.

I’m choosing to celebrate with cheese-stuffed bread.  That’s probably not rational, but I can justify it three ways: (1) it’s winter, (2) it’s playoff season, and (3) the baggy shirts you can wear with skinny jeans cry out for eating more comfort food, right?  Regardless, I’ll place a calzone above a pair of skinny jeans any day of the week.

Priorities.

chicken and caramelized onion calzones | sunsets on the side

If you’re intimidated by making calzones, don’t be.  These bad boys are so easy to put together.

You can make your own pizza dough (that, too, is simpler than you think) or, just buy some.  There’s no shame in that.  There are really good frozen pizza doughs, and my grocery store even has a little refrigerator beside the bread display in the bakery that has little bags of pizza dough that are ready for you to take home.  Go either way with this.

If you’re buying your dough, just make sure to read the package for thawing / rising directions.  You can also go the long or short route with the dipping sauce.  I just used a good jarred sauce for dipping, but go ahead and make your own if you prefer.

New jeans and new calzone recipes.  I really like the way this year is starting off.

Chicken & Caramelized Onion Calzones
 
Author:
Makes: 2 large calzones, 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. pizza dough
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 large Spanish onions, thinly sliced
  • Up to ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk ricotta
  • ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 6 oz. fontina cheese, grated
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Instructions
  1. Prepare pizza dough (if making) and let rise (if making or buying).
  2. In a large, non-stick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add sliced onions, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat with butter. Cook onions over medium heat for about five minutes then turn heat down to low. Cook slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are deeply golden brown, about 50-60 minutes. (If onions begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, pour a little bit of wine into the pan, as needed, to deglaze). Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, parmesan, fontina, chicken, thyme, salt, and pepper. Give the mixture a quick taste to check for seasoning, as cheeses can vary in saltiness. Add more salt if needed.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Divide the pizza dough in half. On a floured surface, roll one half of the dough out into a rectangular shape, approximately 12” x 14”. Brush around the outside border with the egg wash.
  6. Spread half of the cheese mixture down the center of the long side of the rectangle. Top the filling with half of the caramelized onions. Fold the sides of the dough up over the filling, and pinch the top and sides of the dough together to seal. Brush the calzone with egg wash, and place it on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the top lightly with salt and pepper.
  7. Repeat with the other half of the dough, cheese mixture, and onions.
  8. Bake calzones for 16-18 minutes until golden brown. Serve with tomato sauce on the side.

 

Bacon Poblano & Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese

bacon poblano blue mac and cheese

bacon poblano blue mac and cheese

People tend to have a go-to mac and cheese recipe.  You know, the one you can practically make in your sleep or, more accurately maybe, the one you find yourself dreaming about when you’re deep in the middle of that sleep.

Mine has no frills: butter, flour, milk, pasta, cheddar, salt and pepper.  Even the simplicity of it is comforting.  I’ve tried a lot of other recipes, but this one that my mom gave me is still my favorite.

However.

We got a little carried away buying cheese at the market on Saturday and came home with (among other things) a beautiful piece of blue cheese, 2-for-the-price-of-1 wedges of fontina, and a big piece of super sharp cheddar.

So, the mac and cheese plan sort of amped itself up.

bacon and poblano

I really liked the way this turned out.  You can taste the blue cheese in here without it being so bold that it’s overwhelming (e.g., I ate three huge helpings of this without any problem).  The smokiness that the rendered bacon adds to the sauce permeates the whole dish and really complements the tender poblano pieces.

Yum.

bacon poblano blue cheese mac and cheese

The only slight trick to this is getting the fat-to-flour ratio right when you’re thickening up your white sauce.  Since we’re using bacon – and all the goodness it leaves behind – you may or may not need to add butter (and, you may actually need to drain some fat off) before you throw in the flour and the milk.  Comfort is the order of the day when making mac and cheese, though, so no need to overthink it.  Just eyeball it and try to get what you think is 4T of fat in the pan before you add the flour.

So, don’t feel like you’re cheating on your go-to recipe here.  Just keep this one in your back pocket for all your happy, accidental cheese finds.

Bacon Poblano & Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups medium shell pasta
  • 7 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 medium poblano peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 4 T. flour
  • 3 ½ cups whole milk, warmed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 ½ cups shredded fontina
  • 1 ½ cups shredded extra sharp white cheddar
  • 2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup seasoned panko
  • 1 T. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x12” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until the pieces are browned and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  4. Add poblanos to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  5. Add butter to the rendered bacon fat and let melt. (The amount of butter you need will depend on how much bacon fat you have in the pan. You want to aim for a ratio of 4T fat to 4T flour. I needed 1T. butter).
  6. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour and cook together for one minute. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add fontina, cheddar, and blue cheeses, and stir until totally melted.
  8. Combine the pasta, sauce, bacon, and poblanos, and stir to combine. Pour the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish, and top with panko crumbs. Drizzle olive oil lightly over the top.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pasta is bubbling, and crust is brown.