Baked Chicken Parmesan

Oh, sweet homemade marinara. You make so many meals better.

Classic chicken parmesan is a simple dish of breaded (and fried) chicken topped with red sauce and mozzarella, served over pasta. Pretty basic, really. I do away with traditional frying and oven “fry” my chicken breasts because – well, there are many reasons why. Healthier, easier, less mess to clean up. You do have a tendency to end up with a soggy breading since you’re slathering the chicken with a layer of marinara during baking, but you could get around that by serving the sauce separate and just broiling the chicken with the mozzarella enough to melt the cheese. It turns out delicious either way.

Oven-frying chicken is one of my favorite ways to cook it. I start – always – by marinating the chicken in something. Buttermilk is my favorite, but I’ve used Greek yogurt with success. This time around, I used pickle juice, which would have been better with a plain chicken dish but still went mighty well with the marinara and mozzarella. Marinating the chicken for a couple of hours (4 at the most) keeps it moist and does add a bit of flavor to the meat.

When I’m ready to bake, I make the coating: panko breadcrumbs, a healthy amount of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, garlic powder, and salt. Maybe a little pepper. Set the bowl next to a baking sheet lined with foil and with a baking rack placed on it. The chicken comes out of the marinade and straight into the coating. I turn it over a couple times to make sure it’s completely covered, and then it goes over to the baking sheet. I spray the chicken with cooking spray before putting it in the oven, but that’s not really necessary. Just helps crisp it a bit. At 400 degrees, it’ll take the chicken between 25 and 35 minutes to cook, depending on how thick the breasts are. I live by my meat thermometer, which gets rid of the guesswork.

For this meal, after 20 minutes of cooking, I added marinara and mozzarella, then baked for another 15 minutes. Perfectly done. And delicious.

Unless you ask Miss H, in which case it was just okay. She ate half of the serving I gave her, carefully separating cheese from chicken and the mostly just eating the chicken. Miss H is not a fan of mozzarella. She prefers a more flavorful cheese.

What she did like was the side dish, a salad of mache and grape tomatoes dressed with a homemade Italian dressing. Mache is one of the few greens I really like, it being mild in flavor and texturally pleasant. I don’t like bitter greens, so when I do feel like having salad, mache or baby spinach is what I usually go for. It had been a while since I had mache, so I went with that.

And boy did Miss H like it. Though, to be honest, she probably liked the dressing the most. Miss H has a definite liking for sour foods, or pretty much anything with vinegar. The dressing had a little white wine vinegar in it, which I figured she would like if I could just get her to try the mache. She refused at first, no surprise. One thing we do to get her to try something for the first time is ask her just to lick it. It’s less scary than putting the whole thing her mouth. So I held up a little piece of mache doused with dressing and had her lick it. And the next thing I knew, all of her mache was gone, and she was dabbing up the leftover dressing with her finger.

Rating: 5 of 5. Oven-fried chicken is a staple with us, something I used to do a lot but hadn’t done recently. It was actually one of the first real meals I learned how to make out of college, so it’s something I can do without even thinking about what I’m doing. The Italian dressing was obviously a hit and will definitely be made again whenever we want a simple green salad to go along with a more complex main dish.

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Poultry Pot Pie

This may be one of my favorite recipes. I’ve made it so many times over the past six years, which is when I first started making pot pies. And surprise! I’m actually going to share the recipe with you, because it is one I’ve sort of developed on my own. It’s a combination of a number of other recipes, from which I took my favorite things and put them together to make the ultimate go-to recipe.

I call it a poultry pie because I throw whatever I’ve got in there. Chicken, turkey, duck – it’s all good. It’s perfect for using up leftover Thanksgiving turkey. In fact, I freeze 2-3 baggies of leftover turkey meat each just to use for meals like this. It’s why I do a 15-pound turkey even when it’s just the three of us for Thanksgiving. Turkey pot pie is perfect for the winter, and it’s meals like this that make me think it wouldn’t be so bad to have longer, colder winters. Fortunately, even warm(ish) Texas winters benefit from the occasional pot pie, so I still don’t have to put up with snow just to satisfy a pot pie craving.

Also, a note about the pie crust: I do a single crust on my pot pies. Double crusts are better, yes, but single crusts are easier and healthier. I don’t do a layer of crust in the pan, just on top of the filling. This makes things a little messier but does not effect taste. Often, I counter the messiness by making individual pot pies, which are much easier to deal with anyway. They’re a cinch to heat up for leftovers, and they freeze fantastically. I usually get 4 6″ ramekins and 2 4″ ramekins (all generously sized) out of one batch. The adults get one of the larger ramekins, and Miss H gets a small one.

Speaking of Miss H, she likes pot pies, for the most part. What she eats depends on her mood. Sometimes the meat, sometime the veggies (but not the mushrooms), sometimes the potatoes, always the pie crust. The recipe I use for the pie crust is one from Julia Child, and it is the best pie crust I have ever had. I’ve been making it for four years, and it’s comes out perfect (almost) every time. The times it has not come out perfect has been from my own error. I love this pie crust. I could eat it by itself. So could Miss H.

Anyway. Pot pie. Here it is. Feel free to play with it. Add onions or celery if you like. Parsnips would be a nice addition. The husband occasionally gets nostalgic for frozen peas. Sometimes I leave out the corn. And I’d really like to try it with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.

Poultry Pot Pie
6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 16 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 cups shredded cooked poultry
  • 1 disc of uncooked pie dough (~12 ounces)
  1. Heat oven to 400.
  2. In a saucepan, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the potato and carrots and saute until tender.
  3. Stir in the flour until blended. Gradually add broth. Bring to a boil. Simmer, cooking and stirring for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in corn, cream, and seasonings. Stir in poultry.
  4. Spoon into an ungreased 2-quart casserole dish or into individual ramekins. Roll out pie dough to fit over top of the casserole(s). Place over the filling and trim, seal, and flute edges. Cut slits in pastry to vent. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes for a large casserole or 30 minutes for ramekins. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Shrimp Pizza

Shrimp is awesome on pizza. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. You might be surprised.

Pizza is a fun, easy weeknight meal, especially when you have pizza dough in the freezer. The pizza dough recipe I use (another favorite from Julia Child) makes 2-3 dough balls, depending on how I break them up. A small-ish pizza is usually all we need for the three of us.

Or, if you don’t have a dough ball in the freezer – like I didn’t this week – use naan. Or any other flatbread. Works just fine and adds a little variety to the world of pizza. We used naan this week, and we really liked it. But then, naan is a a nearly perfect food and is awesome all the time. Miss H could live off of it if we let her.

So, shrimp pizza. Is it really that weird? Maybe the years of living in Japan skewed my perception. Seafood pizza is not unheard of there.

For our pizza, I made marinara sauce, which is super simple. Throw a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes in a saucepan (or 2 cans, if you want to have lots of leftover sauce to use in more delicious ways). Add herbs to punch it up a bit. This time, I used garlic powder, oregano, and thyme. Basil and bay leaves are also good additions. Toss in a little black pepper if you like, and if you’re in the mood for some heat, a pinch of crushed red pepper. Simmer for an hour, stirring every ten minutes or so. Throw in some brown sugar, a tablespoon or two depending on your taste. Finish it off with a tablespoon of butter. Season as necessary. Boom, marinara sauce that is to die for and goes with just about anything.

Seriously, it does go with just about anything. I took some to a playdate once after I had mistaken it for a jar of raspberry jam. We all had a laugh, but the joke was on us because it was still tasty on my homemade bread. Marinara for the win.

Take your piece of naan and turn it upside down so you have a slightly flatter surface. Slather on some marinara. Top that with precooked shrimp (saute in butter for 2-3 minutes), sliced grape tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella slices. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Done. Pizza. Seafood pizza. Better than it sounds.

Miss H, however, would disagree. She has a shrimp aversion. Put fish in front of her, and she’ll dig right in. Shrimp? Nope. She also does not like mozzarella cheese for some weird toddler reason. Put any other cheese in front of her – including a nice, pungent blue or a tangy goat – and she’ll devour it. Mozzarella? Uh-uh. Granted, it’s the blandest of cheese, and she likes a strong cheese flavor, so maybe she’s got a good reason for it other than that she’s three and likes to be troublesome.

Also, more fresh mozzarella for the rest of us.

Rating: 4 out of 5. It’s not perfect, but it’s close. It’s super messy, because the naan soaks up the sauce and gets a bit soft and soggy if you let it sit too long. But it’s pretty super fresh out of the oven. Would definitely make again.

Inspired by this recipe from Babaganosh.

Sweet Serenity Apple Pie

Source: Oh, how I wish I knew.

You see, many years ago (perhaps not too many, but enough), there was a show named Firefly, and it was a woefully short-lived show. Only 13 episodes. It was a tragedy.

The funny thing is, I didn’t know about Firefly until the follow-up movie Serenity was released and a sushi chef at a fusion restaurant that I frequented suggested that I go and see it. I did. And then I devoured every Firefly scrap I could find. One such scrap was a small collection of recipes inspired by the TV series. And by small, I mean small, maybe 5-6 recipes. All of the recipes came from brief mentions in the show itself. This particular recipe references an episode in which one character uses his windfall to buy a crate of apples to share with his fellow crewmates, a rare and expensive treat for a space-going group of people. What else would you do with an overabundance of apples but make some apple pie?

This was a time period in which I was just discovering that cooking could be enjoyable. I was still a novice in the kitchen, still hesitant to try new and unusual things. I doubt any of those recipes were truly too strange to try, but I can’t say for sure because I don’t remember any of them. Except for this one.

Well, to be completely honest, I only remember the recipe because I wrote it down and shared it in a family cookbook. I’m not even sure if I have the name of the recipe right. I think I do, because it’s what I’ve always called it, but it’s possible that I’ve misremembered it over the years. I first made this pie in 2005/2006. I have the recipe, but I don’t have the original page that I found it on. I’ve looked for it, because the internet never forgets, but I still haven’t found it. Now that I’m not a novice cook anymore, I wonder about those other recipes.

Because I LOVE Firefly/Serenity. I don’t tend to geek out too much, but there are two things that bring out the rabid geek in me: Firefly and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Combining them with my love of cooking isn’t easy to do, so I cherish this one recipe.

It helps that this pie is absolutely delicious.

I was not a big fan of apple pies before I found this recipe. I didn’t realize that apple pies did not have to be double-crusted. I didn’t know about crumble toppings. Making a double-crust apple pie seemed like far more work than I was capable of at the time. I was a newbie, and making an apple pie – a pie of any sort, really – seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. But this is a simple recipe, and I thought I could do it.

And I did do it. And it was delicious. I love it. I still don’t make apple pies very often, but this is my go-to apple pie recipe. Nothing beats it, for me anyway.

Apple slices piled up on apple slices. A thickened simple syrup turned deep brown by ground cinnamon. A soft crumble topping with just enough sweetness. It’s a simple pie that satisfies any apple pie craving I’ve ever had. It’s also very simple to make, especially if you use a storebought pie crust.

I don’t often share recipes on my blog because I don’t develop my own. I take other people’s genius and see what I can do with it. But because I legitimately cannot find a link for this recipe, I’m going to post it here, because I don’t think it’s fair to talk about how awesome something is and then not provide a way to make it happen for people who might be interested in it.

So, here you go.

 

Sweet Serenity Apple Pie

for the pie:
1 9″ pie shell, pre-cooked
2-3 apples of your choice (I usually use Gala because that’s what I have)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch

for the topping:
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter, softened

Peel, core, and slice the apples thinly. Place in the pie shell, layering until all slices are used and the shell is full.

Combine sugar, water, cinnamon, and cornstarch in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and allow to cook down until thick, between 5-10 minutes. Pour evenly over the apples.

For the topping, combine the sugar, flour, and butter until crumbly. I just use my fingers to rub in the butter and get the consistency I want. It should be clumpy and not too sticky. Cover the pie with pieces of the crumb mixture. It will be a bit patchy, but that’s okay. It looks really nice with glimpses of the reddish filling peeking through the browned topping.

Bake at 350º for 35-40 minutes, until the topping is just lightly browned. Set aside to cool completely. The pie is just fine on its own, but it would also be terrific with some vanilla ice cream or slightly sweetened whipped cream.