Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Once again, I’m ignoring my own don’t-blog-other-bloggers’-stuff rule for this post. Chef John at foodwishes.com posted about what he called “the most popular chicken recipe video in the history of the Internet.” Um, of course I needed to jump on the bandwagon and try it for myself. And once I did, I realized that I needed to share it with you so that you will know how important it is for you to try this recipe, as well. It’s vital, actually.


It starts out easy enough. A bit of olive oil, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes in the bottom of a Pyrex dish.


I smeared it around with a pastry brush, then added some chicken breasts (Chef John added that you could give them a quick pan-fry first, but I chose not to dirty another dish. Sue me).


Followed by a jar of spaghetti sauce. I used Wegman’s brand “Grandma’s Pomodoro Sauce.”


Then some grated Parmesan cheese (I didn’t use fresh but it would have been better if I had)…


… and grated mozzarella (same deal as with the Parmesan)…


… topped by a bag of garlic croutons. This part is so important and awesome. Just pour the croutons on top, spread them out, and smoosh them down a bit with your hand. They will give the final product an awesome flavor and texture.


And then top with more Parmesan and mozzarella!

And with that, they go in the oven. I used a meat thermometer to monitor the best cooking time, since it seemed that a lot of commenters had trouble with that. When it was done, this is what my casserole looked like:


Here’s a close-up. Yummmmm.


To serve, just try to get a chicken breast out of the dish with the cheese and croutons over it intact. Eat any stray pieces right out of the pan with your fingers.


I served with some green beans and a garlic knot. Oh, it was so good. Those croutons added such a nice flavor and texture to the chicken. This was such a quick, easy meal, and it had such a restaurant-quality finish to it. I highly recommend that you give it a try!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dirty Rice

I was looking for more things to do with the shallots that my Aunt had sent me a few weeks ago. Hubby had some ideas, having grown up using shallots in Cajun rice down in Louisiana. This was my attempt to combine his verbal accounts with a copycat recipe for Popeye’s Cajun rice (aka dirty rice).


I started off with a stalk of celery.


And diced it up pretty finely.


Then I did the same with a green bell pepper.


Next, I turned to the shallots.


And diced a couple of those babies up, too.


Finally, I used a few cloves of my Aunt’s homegrown garlic.




With all that prepped, I started browning a pound (or maybe a pound and a half) of ground beef.


Then I added my diced celery and green pepper.


Finally, I added the garlic and shallots.



When it was done, I drained the grease and added some long-grain rice.


And then water, of course.


Along with some seasoning.


A little bit of Cajun seasoning…


And a little bit of cayenne.


Then I put the lid on and let it simmer for a while.


When it was done, I fluffed the rice and gave it a taste. It was a little bland, so I added some Tony’s creole seasoning. I didn’t use it before because it’s so salty, but at this point I decided it could use the extra flavoring.


All mixed in, this is what it looked like.


In the end, it could have used more seasoning. I had been real careful not to overdo it because I’ve ruined food by using too much creole seasoning, but I really should have dialed it up a notch. Other than that, though, not bad. A good first attempt at dirty rice!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Husband-Friendly BBQ Chicken Pizza


I once blogged about my recipe for BBQ chicken pizza. It’s very flavorful, since it’s loaded with tons of pepperoncini peppers, red onions, and cilantro. I made it again recently when a college friend and her new husband dropped in for a visit while they were in town. Afterwards, hubby remarked that while he really liked the meal, he would like it better with far less cilantro and peppers. Previously, he’d said something about fewer onions, as well. I thought that it would probably be better to find a new recipe than simply cut back, since those were the essence of that recipe. So I did some searching online. I kid you not, this is the title of one that popped up:

“Husband-friendly barbecue chicken pizza”

Of course, I picked that one to make.

I’ve been making my own pizza dough for a few months now. When I first made it, I had no problems. I’m not sure what star was shining on me, because I’ve had problems with it ever since. The next time I made it, it was far too gooey and I ended up adding a ton of extra flour to make it work. It was a struggle but eventually worked out. When my friend and her husband were in town recently, I tried to avoid the goopy problem by using less water, but then I felt like the dough was too dry (then again, I also forgot the olive oil because I was trying to talk and cook at the same time, oops).

This time around, I was super careful with every aspect of the dough. As you can see in this picture, I used less than 1 cup and more than 3/4 cup. I also actually measured the temperature to get the best results from the yeast.


When I was done mixing the dough, this is what it looked like.


It didn’t rise a ton last time and I thought that might because I didn’t put it in a warm enough place, so this time I put it outside on my balcony.


Oh yes, that helped!


I’ve started using a sprinkling of corn meal on my pizza stone. I think it helps with texture and keeps it from sticking. Plus, I’m a copy cat and other people do that.


I found that the dough was too elastic for a rolling pin and actually ended up picking it up and using my fists to stretch it out, just like what I’ve seen REAL chefs do. I felt pretty awesome about it. I even thought about taking a video to post here, but then I came to my senses and remembered that no one comes to my blog to see me. So then I didn’t. Anyway, here’s my dough on the stone.


Okay, now to start preparing the toppings. Like my other recipe, this one calls for red onions.



Unlike my other recipe, this one says to caramelize them in olive oil. The other recipe leaves them raw. I knew this way was going to be much better.




When they were about done, I put them aside in a bowl and re-used the pan to fry some bacon. I cut the slices in half just so they’d fit, but ended up using 6 whole strips of bacon.


Okay, time to start assembling!

First, I slathered the pizza crust with some barbecue sauce. I used a combination KC Masterpiece (Original) and Famous Dave’s Devil’s spit, since that’s what I had on hand. Really, I should have made my own, but let’s be honest – this was already a lot of work.


Next, I covered the pizza with leftover chicken from my slow cooker BBQ chicken the night before.


And then the onions, and also the bacon, crumbled and torn into little pieces.


Then the recipe called for a half cup of gorgonzola.


As I sprinkled it on, I tried to figure out the difference between gorgonzola and bleu cheese. I decided that gorgonzola is just an Italian variety of bleu.


The recipe called for some diced, fresh jalapenos. I opted for whole slices from a jar, but not very many. I wasn’t convinced that they belonged on this pizza (and I’m still not).


This part is odd. The recipe called for a tablespoon each of paprika and garlic powder to be sprinkled on.


I couldn’t do it. It just seemed like far too much of both. I sprinkled a lot of both, but not the whole tablespoon. I didn’t want to have gone through all this effort only to ruin the pizza by over-seasoning it.


Finally, top with grated mozzarella. For the first time ever, I bought fresh mozzarella and grated it myself.


Turns out, it’s really soft and moist and hard to grate. The texture was very different from the grated mozzarella I usually buy. I managed though. And ate all the pieces that looked weird, just to save hubby from them.


Here’s the pizza topped with everything:


Popped it in a 425 degree oven and we’re good to go!


I think the temperature was a bit too high, as the cheese didn’t have the texture that I was looking for, but whatever. It worked out.


I liked it, a lot! Caramelizing the onions got their flavor under control and added a sweetness that worked with the tang of the barbecue sauce. The smokiness of the bacon also went well with the sauce.


Hubby said he really liked this recipe. His only complaint was that it was too spicy and left his mouth burning. I suppose that’s what I get for using a barbecue sauce called “Devil’s Spit.” I won’t do that again.


I definitely think that this recipe just nudged my old one out of the rotation.

Oh, and in case you were wondering the crust was perfect!