Easiest, Best Pizza Crust

Do you have once a week pizza night in your house? Do you WISH you had once a week pizza night in your house, but are intimidated by the “hassle” of homemade crust?

Worry no more. The simplest, tastiest pizza crust recipe is now available to you. The hardest part about making this recipe is waiting the extra 48 hours for the flavor to develop in the bulk ferment in the fridge. But if you have the patience to wait three full days for your pizza (yes, anticipation IS part of the flavor) your dinner will taste high calibre even if you’re simply using up leftovers from your fridge to top your ‘za. So, for the sake of your tastebuds, try and give this dough the full time to “grow” into itself.

Another perk of this recipe is there’s flavor without the fuss of sourdough. All this batch of dough needs is 1 gram of yeast. That’s it. The rest of the flavor comes from natural yeasts in the air, and time.

I mean, just look at this beauty after she’s been partitioned into individual bowls and left to come into her own:

1 gram of dry yeast later…

Add some of your favorite toppings while your oven sits at 550°F and bake for 8 minutes. And boom! Hearth-fire-style pizza, right at home. Date night with your Other just got a little bit better.

can you eat a whole ‘za?

But why trust a picture? This cheap project yields handsome rewards. Besides, there’s a pandemic. You’ve got nothing but time! (Sorry, sorry…too soon? …it might be too soon.)

I topped my most recent pizza with a few hearty spoonfuls of ricotta, fresh basil and red sauce, ground Italian sausage, and a generous crack of fresh pepper. Needless to say, there were no surviving pieces to enjoy for lunch the next day.

Simple Three Day Pizza Dough

food52
Based on this recipe from food52.
Prep Time 10 mins
Total Rise time 1 d
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients
  

  • 500 grams bread flour
  • 16 grams fine salt
  • 1 gram active dry yeast
  • 1.5 cups water

Instructions
 

  • Whisk together bread flour, salt, and yeast.
  • Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon, spatula, or your hand until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Once mixture is combined, lightly flour a countertop and knead for several minutes to remove clumps. Dough should easily come together in a ball.
  • Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at 24 hours at room temperature, undisturbed. It should bubble and roughly double in size.
  • Lightly flour a large cutting board or your kitchen countertop and place the dough on it. Divide dough into 4 equal portions for 10 inch pies.
  • Place the dough balls into oiled, airtight containers or small bowls covered in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for another 48-96 hours.
  • Remove from the fridge at LEAST 1 hour before use to allow the dough to come to room temperature. This lets the gluten relax and allows you to more easily shape the dough into a disc for baking.
  • To make pizza, preheat the oven to 550°F while the partitioned dough is coming to room temperature from the fridge. Place a pizza stone, flat baking sheet, or cast iron in the oven to preheat while you stretch the dough into a flat shape. Place onto a pizza peel or another flat baking sheet with a fine dusting of rice flour or cornmeal, so the dough can freely slide off and into the oven. Add desired toppings, and bake for 8 minutes, or until browned and bubbling. Let rest at least 1 minute before cutting.
Keyword active dry yeast, chewy crust, crust, dough, natural yeast, pizza, pizza crust, pizza dough

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Creamy Mustard Sauce

With the arrival of the weekend came another opportunity to cook a classic dish and scratch it off the list. Perhaps even better, I was able to throw some ingredients around it which sorely needed to be used up from the fridge, so the chicken really got to be the star of the show. Plus, any time you can eat meat wrapped in more meat, the feeling of indulgence is pretty inescapable. Not a bad way to end the week!

Chicken cordon bleu is credited to Switzerland but seems to have a rather mysterious, folklore-ish background. The only common “facts” I could find in my internet trolling about this infamous creation was that it did, in fact, originate in Switzerland, and “cordon bleu” can refer to any meat stuffed with cheese and panfried, deep fried, or baked.

Though I only used two chicken breasts, the addition of ham, Swiss cheese, and bread crumbs made it so that I could only comfortably eat half of one. This was by no means a bad thing (helloooo fancy leftovers!) but I think it is safe to say two breasts could easily feed four people, especially if there are other dishes on the table.

Simple starch is a good sidekick here, as it acts as another medium for the delicious mustard sauce which is drizzled over the top of the chicken. But hey, use your imagination and pair anything with it that you think won’t upstage your efforts!

before
after (note: this is just one of two chicken breasts)

After the chicken was seasoned and then pounded to about 1/2″ thick, I rolled it up with ham slices and Swiss cheese. Next, it was breaded!

beaten egg, seasoned breadcrumbs, flour, oiled pan–note: a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet could easily be substituted

I panfried the chicken in a little olive oil then transitioned the whole business to the oven to finish. Meanwhile, I prepared the sauce and made some side dishes. Turns out the fancy name doesn’t mean this dish is any harder to make.

baked chicken
thanks, Switzerland

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Creamy Mustard Sauce

Serves 2-4

Chicken

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning, to taste
  • 6 thin slices of high-quality deli ham
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 c breadcrumbs
  • 1 heaping Tbs dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • ½ c flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 Tbs + 2 Tbs olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Lightly season and pepper both sides of the chicken breast. Using either a plastic bag or two sheets of plastic wrap to contain the meat, use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken to ¼”-1/2” thickness. Lay three slices of ham over each breast, followed by two slices of cheese. If there is a longer end to your chicken, roll it into a tight spiral, keeping the ham and cheese tucked carefully within it. If you need to, use toothpicks to hold it together (mine stayed together just fine without them).

In a wide bowl, mix together breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, and pepper. Spread flour on one plate and beaten eggs on another. Roll the meat wrap in flour, completely coating all surfaces. Roll the floured meat in egg, then dredge in breadcrumbs, coating evenly both times.

Heat first measurement of oil in an oven-safe heavy bottomed skillet or cast iron. When hot, add both chicken breasts and cook over medium heat until browned, about five minutes. When the breadcrumbs are beautifully browned, add second measurement of olive oil and flip the chicken over using tongs. 

After five minutes on the second side, place the skillet in the oven and bake 20-25 minutes, or until meat thermometer inserted into the chicken breast reads 155°F or higher. While the chicken is baking, prepare the mustard sauce. 

Creamy Mustard Sauce

  • ½ c butter
  • ¼ c flour
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1/3 c-1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs whole grain mustard
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard, plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice (optional)
  • Fresh parsley (garnish)

Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until melted, but not browned. Add flour and cook 1-3 minutes, or until the flour has foamed and absorbed the flavor of the butter, stirring constantly.

Lower heat to medium and gradually add milk, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens. Add cream until sauce is of desired consistency. Add both mustards, salt, and pepper, stirring after each addition and tasting for seasonings. Add lemon juice, if using. 

Spoon sauce over sliced chicken cordon bleu. Finish with fresh parsley and serve with greens, simple starch like fingerling potatoes or rice, and a glass of white wine.

Spicy Sesame Chard with Salty Tempeh Bites

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I really crave tempeh.

I am a sane enough person to realize that that can seem like an absurd statement, but hear me out.

Have you ever tried a plant-based diet? (Cool, thanks for trying! If not, why not? Would it kill you to try? 😉 ) Have you ever had baked tofu cubes with edges so crisp and caramelized and perfectly seasoned, you’d even prefer them to meat? If that doesn’t sound absurd to you (and maybe especially if it does), read on, bold omnivore!

I got home from my shift at the bakery the other morning fretting about my garden. The last of my tired chard plants have been dutifully toiling to produce several, perfect, tender leaves in their final push of the season. This is not to say they have not had a long and prolific career. My chard, gifted to me in the form of seeds by a lovely friend, has provided me with many, many leaves. We’ve had a good run this year, chard and I.

The first time I ate chard, I distinctly remembered thinking that it tasted even dirt-ier than dirt itself. I chewed without pleasure, thinking “Who would voluntarily eat this?”

Obviously many lifetimes have eclipsed since then, and I have to attribute any advancements in my palette to my foresighted mother. (Thanks, Mom.)

The point is, I’ve really come a long way with this vegetable. From obligation to enjoyment, there are many miles to span and many bridges to cross. I’ve given this leafy green a chance many times when I didn’t feel up to the challenge, and over time I found merit and reward in the trying. By now, I even crave the vegetable from time to time and its robust, earthy flavor.

So I knew this final harvest deserved a little special something. A final bow, if you will, before winter digs in and this fruitful little plant dies away. She deserved to be the star of the show, and I figured her cast ought to be entirely made up with vegetables.

First, I harvested and washed the tender baby chard.

Then, I gathered the necessary ingredients, chopped my tempeh and chard and sorted the chard pieces into piles of “mostly stems” and “mostly leaf,” assembled my marinade, and zipped the cut tempeh in a bag to rest for 30 minutes.

I roasted the tempeh with half of the marinade until the edges turned crispy in the pan, then sautéed the chard, stems first, in sesame oil and chili flakes. Simple and flavorful, this recipe could easily be adapted to serve two, with another handful of chard. If you are looking to flesh out the meal, consider serving your favorite grain or rice noodles alongside.

garnished with fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a dollop of coconut cream–do not miss out on the coconut cream!!!

Spicy Sesame Chard with Salty Tempeh Bites

Serves 2

The Sauce

  • 3 Tbs light sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sweet chili sauce or sriracha
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • ½ tsp honey
  • ¼ lime, juiced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, pressed, minced, or grated with a microplane zester
  • 0.5 oz ginger (about 1” long), peeled with a spoon and minced or grated with a microplane zester

The Plate

  • 1 8oz package tempeh, cut into ½”-1” chunks
  • 10 oz rainbow chard, washed
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1-2 Thai chilis, chopped, or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 1 3-fingered pinch of salt
  • ¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbs coconut cream (garnish, 1 Tbs per dish)
  • Sesame seeds (garnish)
  • Squeeze of fresh lime (about 1/8th of a lime)

Cut tempeh into ½”-1” chunks. Using a small saucepan, steam for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, assemble the sauce. Mix all ingredients in a jar or liquid measuring cup, tasting for seasoning. Set aside.

Drain tempeh and let cool a few minutes. Place tempeh in a quart-sized zip top bag with sauce, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, flipping the bag over after 15 minutes have passed. When you flip the bag for the second 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Wash chard and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1” long) and separate the stems from the leafy cuts. Set aside.

Assemble tempeh in an oven-safe baking dish, making sure none of the pieces are touching. Pour half of the marinade over the tempeh. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add second measurement of sesame oil to a large skillet, set over high heat. Sprinkle in chopped Thai chili or red pepper flakes and “bloom” in the hot oil, about one minute. Add chard, stems first, lowering to the temperature to medium-low. Stir until the stems are coated in oil (about 30 seconds) then add 3 Tbs water and immediately cover. Steam undisturbed for 3 minutes, or until the stems begin to change color and turn tender. Add chopped leaves and toss with tongs until they are coated with the spiced oil, seasoning with salt as you do so. Cover again and steam for one minute. Remove lid and stir. Steam until the water has cooked out, and the leaves have reached desired “doneness.” Remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.

After 10 minutes of baking, pull tempeh and flip the pieces over using tongs or a spatula. Return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes. You are looking for caramelization on the edges and acquisition of color on each tempeh cube. 

When tempeh has finished baking, pull from the oven and add the remaining marinade to the hot dish. You may have darkened bits of cooked sauce around the tempeh. Stir the tempeh around to coat with fresh marinade and let rest while you plate the chard.

Using tongs, pull chard from skillet, allowing any excess water or oil to wick off. Place onto two plates, adding tempeh chunks and any desired residual marinade. Plate with 1 Tbs coconut cream on each dish, fresh cilantro, sesame seeds, and a squeeze of lime.

Chicken and Dumplings

Well, the rain is back. It feels right, really. Like, the only thing that’s made sense so far this year is the return of the grey skies and precipitation to this PNW town. (Aw, man. I hope I didn’t jinx it–after all, it’s only September…)

I ponder this as I sip my spicy chai and munch on a slice of sourdough layered with ricotta cheese and homemade concord grape/serrano pepper preserves. It’s good to have a roof over my head. It’s even better to have whole milk cheese and spicy grape jelly.

With the driving rain comes the desire for comfort foods and, for me, naps. (Any fellow nappers out there?)

Since I’ve already made two lasagnas in the last month, I decided to go with chicken and dumplings. Y’know, vamp up my usual autumnal habit of throwing stuff from my refrigerator that’s about to go bad into a pot of hot broth and calling it soup (which Samin Nosrat tells us never, ever to do). But hey, I can’t help but try to run a no-waste kitchen–even if it means bending a few culinary “rules.” Sorry, Samin. (But I still love you oh-so-much!!!)

I’d never made chicken and dumplings before–in fact, had never tasted it–but I saw Alison Roman’s recipe with the New York Times and had to give it a try.

I was reminded of Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon as I scraped browned bits of meat from the bottom of my Dutch oven and wondered briefly if this humble American staple perhaps had French roots.

A Google search informed me it’s accredited to the southern United States and gained notoriety during the Great Depression. It kinda makes sense. The chicken is cooked in such a way that the meat falls off the bone, so it’s easy to use whatever animal scraps are on hand; and the hearty, flour-rich broth and steamed dumplings make for a cheap, filling meal. Plus, it’s actually a very satisfying bowl of stew, if I can call it that. It’s kind of its own thing. You’ll just have to make it for yourself and see.

I happened to have a whole chicken from my foray in the local farmer’s market this past weekend; thus began the adventure of “butchering” my own bird into recognizable pieces.

I watched a slew of instructional Youtube videos and channeled my inner Julia Child as I held my knife to where the leg meets the rest of the bird, daring it to challenge me.

Turns out, it’s actually kinda fun. Carving out two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings, and two breasts rewards you not only with the palatable meat, but the carcass (perfect for making stock!!) which I immediately sealed in a ziplock back and placed in the freezer.

stock gold!!

I don’t know if it was the crunching of bones or the smell of raw meat, but both animals hovered around me as I cut.

Internet, meet Gus!

After carving the bird and seasoning the pieces with salt and pepper, I gathered the necessary ingredients to make the quick stock.

it’s a simple stock, really–but the flavor is so special because of the simplicity of the ingredients

Well, I should add everything here is organic, mostly local, and free range–I am referring, of course, to the thyme! (Stand down, Chris D’Elia. This girl’s got jokes!)

I can feel your eye rolls from here, so I’ll carry on to the meat browning in my beloved Le Creuset!

mmm, dark meat <3

Then, drain the fat into a liquid measuring cup and set the seared meat on a plate with a paper towel.

Any Type A folx driven crazy by this photo??

Then, add celery, onion, and half the carrots. Cook for a few minutes, then add water, thyme, and seared meat. Not to worry–those brown crusty bits end up coating the veggies as they release moisture during the cooking process. Mmmmm!

Yep, hard to go wrong with these ingredients.

This gets cooked at a simmer for a little over a half an hour, or until the liquid has reduced by 1/4. Then it’s time to make and add the dumplings!

she’s not much to look at now, but she cleans up reaaaaal good

Once you dollop the dumpling dough into the broth, it’s time to cover and steam for about 20 minutes! Check a dumpling by cutting it in half to make sure it’s cooked through all the way–and boom! You just made chicken and dumplings! 🙂

add fresh herbs to garnish. parsley is usually a good idea.

Chicken and Dumplings

Adapted from Alison Roman’s NYT recipe

Chicken 

  • 1.5-2 lbs skin-on chicken on the bone, preferably thighs or other dark meat
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 celery stocks, chopped
  • 6 medium or 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch slices
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs butter (add more as needed)
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Dumplings and Presentation

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, or 2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar added to milk of your choice, equaling ¾ cup
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tbs melted butter (I used salted)
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Season chicken generously on all sides with salt and pepper and let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. Heat canola oil in a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven (I used Le Creuset) and place the chicken skin side down in the oil. Cook about 8 minutes, or until chicken skin appears golden brown and fat is rendered from the meat. Flip and cook another 5 minutes or so. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a plate with a paper towel, and pour the rendered fat into a liquid measuring cup or bowl. Ideally, you will have 5 Tbs total. If your chicken was not so fatty, add the necessary amount of canola oil to make 5 Tbs.

Return 2 Tbs of fat to the pot and add onions, celery, and half of the carrots. (Don’t worry about the browned bits on the bottom of the pot—as the vegetables cook and release water, any chicken “crusties” will dissolve and their wonderful flavor will be incorporated!) Season vegetables with salt and freshly cracked pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot with thyme and 8 cups of water. Simmer uncovered until the liquid has reduced by about ¼, about 35 minutes.

Pull chicken from the pot and transfer to a plate with a fresh paper towel. Strain the stock with a colander over a bowl and throw the vegetables and thyme sprigs out; you should have about 5 cups of liquid. Wipe out the Dutch oven, if you feel so inclined.

Heat the last 3 Tbs of chicken fat with 1 Tbs of butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk until it is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil, being careful to work out lumps. Add remaining carrots and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Lower heat to a simmer as you pull apart the chicken meat from the bones. Cook and stir until the mixture is thickened and the carrots are tender, around 10 minutes.

As this mixture is thickening, make the dumplings. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Mix buttermilk and beaten egg together, and add to the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Mix until just incorporated with a rubber spatula, being careful not to over mix. (Being careful to gently mix during this time makes for tender dumplings!)

Dollop the dumpling dough into the hot liquid in a heaping tablespoon, taking care to give the edges an opportunity to make contact with the broth and absorb the flavor. When all of the dough has been placed into the pot, cover and cook for 18 minutes, or until a sacrificial dumpling is fluffy and cooked all the way through when cut in half. Scoop your chicken and dumplings into a bowl and enjoy with chopped parsley or the herb of your choice.