Go-To Pizza Dough

Go-To Pizza Dough coming out of a brick ovenPizza Pizza
Tonight is make your own pizza night, a family favorite. There’s a twist, though. Normally I will heat up a pizza stone in my oven or sometimes on my grill to cook the pizzas. Tonight, we are doing it at my sister’s house because she’s the one with a pizza oven.

All of the dudes in our lives are either on business trips or off at school. So, my daughter, sister, and I are having a girls’ night. We are making our own pizza because I want to see if I need a backyard pizza oven like my sister has.

For years my husband and I have dreamed that it would be great if we had a wood-fired oven in our backyard. We could make bread, roast meats, and, yes, make fantastic pizzas. My husband would love to build it, as he is always up for a project.

But, here’s the thing. Making pizza, or anything else in a wood-fired oven is a process. As awesome and beautiful as a brick oven would be, you have to be the kind of person who will really use it. You must have an hours-long plan not only for getting it hot but also for when the pizza making is over and you let the oven cool.

It would be a waste of time, energy, and resources not to throw other things in there like some gorgeous sourdough bread or some succulent roasted chicken and potatoes. It’s potentially a two-day process at least. Which, if you have the time, is a great way to spend your days. But, it’s just not practical for most of us. And now that my household is rapidly shrinking, I don’t have the mouths required to consume all the oven-roasted bounty.

My sister has a gas-fired tabletop pizza oven that I am thinking is the better solution. So, tonight I’m going to test drive it. Below is the recipe for my Go-To Pizza Dough. (Can’t go wrong with Bobby Flay!) I am curious to see how the pizzas turn out and what the flavor is like without the smoke of the wood. Though, you can get ovens that will use both.

Go-To Pizza Dough Recipe
Adapted from Bobby Flay and the Food Network
Yields 2 14-inch pizza crusts Read more…

Amy’s Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

Photo of Amy’s Teriyaki Chicken Thighs over rice with broccoliHot Competition
For a lot of people, the start of College Football is a non-event. For others, like the majority of my family, it’s kind of a big deal. This year is especially wacky because, with my kids and my nephew off to college, we now have three more teams to cheer for.

If there was one silver lining for the heat we’ve had over the pasts few days it is this, there was a perfectly reasonable justification for camping out on the couch all Saturday to watch the full lineup of games. True, it wasn’t 155 degrees on Saturday but it was still hot. Hot enough that the chicken wings I had planned to make (because what else do you eat while watching football?) didn’t happen. I couldn’t bring myself to turn on the oven. I did, however, fire up the grill.

In lieu of wings, I made my recipe for Amy’s Teriyaki Chicken Thighs using boneless skinless thighs—which are the workhorse of my food repertoire. I always have chicken thighs in the fridge or freezer. I also always have teriyaki on hand because no matter what’s going on during the day you can get dinner on the table quick with a 30-minute dunk in teriyaki before throwing it on the grill.

Add some steamed rice and some broccoli and BOOM. Dinner is served. I also always make more than I need—so I can throw some on a salad for lunch or even make a sandwich.

There are plenty of good teriyaki marinades out there. But, lately, I have turned away from the super sweet ones for two reasons. First, the older I get the less sweet I want my food to be. Second, sugar in the marinade will burn on the grill if you’re not careful. That caramelized flavor has its time and place but I would rather taste the other flavors.

This is the teriyaki I have been using lately—though it does take a little bit more time to marinade than the open-and-pour options. To me, it tastes more like the grilled chicken you get in Hawaii. It’s sweet but not corn syrup sweet. Feel free to add a little chili garlic paste if you want some heat.

Amy’s Teriyaki Chicken Thighs Recipe
Adapted from Favorite Family Recipes
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Amy’s Beat Bobby Flay Chicken Parm

Image of Amy's Beat Bobby Flay Chicken Parm with pastaMaybe Classic Chicken Parm
We all have those time-suck TV shows that you turn to because nothing else interesting is on. These are the shows that you tell yourself you will just watch for a little while and then 3 hours later (because it was a marathon) you’re still watching. I have a few go-to favorites. Big Bang Theory is one. The worst offender though is Beat Bobby Flay on Food Network. I found myself down that rabbit hole once again about a week or so ago and what’s worse is I haven’t been able to get one of the recipes out of my head.

That recipe? Chicken Parmesan.

I am a fan of crispy fried chicken in all forms. This particular version is a favorite because it adds melted mozzarella on top. I mean, what’s not to love? I will say that I definitely fall into the less sauce is more camp here which may not be traditional. I like some sauce on top. I don’t like so much sauce that my chicken is soggy but to each his or her own. You make it the way you want to make it.

What struck me about the way the chefs were preparing this dish during that episode is that Bobby was adding ground toasted fennel to the flour dredge for the chicken—because it was how his mother would make it. I had never heard of this. By doing some light research and asking a few friends, I have found that a number of Italian mothers and grandmothers will make chicken Parm this way. However, finding a published recipe that includes the fennel is difficult.

The first thing I think of when I think about the flavor of dried fennel is Italian sausage. I love Italian sausage. The idea of that Italian sausage flavor married with the Chicken Parm has had my mouth watering for days and I haven’t had the time to make it for dinner. It’s always crazy busy at the beginning of the school year…

I’m going to give it a go this weekend by adapting my favorite Chicken Parm recipe. I’m hoping for a win…

Amy’s Beat Bobby Flay Chicken Parm
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Gammy Salad

Serving of Gammy Salad with tomatoes, avocado and burrata cheeseGam’s Tomato “Salad”
My grandmother was a fool for summer tomatoes. She grew them in her giant garden. And, what she didn’t eat fresh she then canned to have them all throughout the year. I could be wrong, but I think she really grew them so that she could have a sliced tomato sandwich. My mother had the same addiction. The two of them would go bananas over sliced ripe tomatoes on white bread.

I will say that they had it right in one respect. When it comes to fresh homegrown tomatoes, the simpler the better. Why would you hide all that fresh tomato flavor (that you have been craving for the past year) under way too much sauce? Nowhere was this more apparent than when my grandmother would make what my sister and I refer to as Gammy Salad.

To call it a salad would be stretching the truth quite a bit. She would slice fresh tomatoes and layer them on one side of a plate. On the other side, she would slice up avocados and arrange them artfully. She would then sprinkle a little bit of Italian dressing over both sides and finish it all off with a big dollop of mayonnaise in the center and some salt and pepper. I know what you are thinking, “You had me up until the mayonnaise.” The truth is, it’s kinda good.

Better yet…one bite of this and I am immediately transported back to summer Sunday night dinners when I was nine.

For the past week or so I have been making various versions of the Gammy salad because it’s August and my tomatoes are all turning ripe at the same time. The mayonnaise version has definitely made an appearance. But, I think my new favorite version replaces the mayo with some fresh burrata. Sometimes I include some sweet cantaloupe if I am feeling sassy.

Gammy Salad
Yields 4 servings (or more depending on how many tomatoes you use) Read more…