Tag Archives: mozzarella

Captain Jack’s Cheesy Toasts

Unquestionably the greatest party food of all time.

These delicious little cheese bombs hold a soft spot in our hearts; they’ve always been a part of our Christmas Eve celebration with our neighbors and were a favorite of our family friend, Jack. There’s no reason to limit yourself to special occasions for these puppies. The prep is quick, the ingredients are basic, and the results are consistently delicious. Think of it as an upgrade to your boring cheese and crackers.

Equipment Needed: 2 Baking Sheets, Mixing Bowl, Large Fork, Spatula, Aluminum Foil

Serving Suggestion: Family Style

Servings: 8-10

Suggested Wine Pairing: Oaky whites or lighter reds

Suggested Beer Pairing: A cold Coors Light in honor of Captain Jack (or whatever you’re drinking)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cocktail loaf rye bread (about $3/loaf)
  • 1/2 small onion (you’ll need enough for 3 TBSP) ($0.99/lb)
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese ($4.49/8 oz bag)
  • 1/2 C mayonnaise ($3.99/15 oz jar)
  • 1 TBSP dijon mustard ($3.85/8 oz jar)
  • 2 TBSP grated horseradish ($1.99/6 oz jar)
  • 1/3 C bacon bits (this is the ONLY time you’ll ever see us recommend imitation bacon bits; staying true to the original recipe is a matter of principle on this one)(about $3/3 oz jar)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 °. Line your baking sheets with aluminum foil so you don’t spend the rest of the night scrubbing burnt cheese off of them.
  • Lay out the rye bread slices in an individual layer across the baking sheets. You don’t need to leave that much room between them but you’ll want to be able to get a spatula in there.
  • Pour your mozzarella into the mixing bowl. Mince up the equivalent of 3 tablespoons of onion and toss that in too. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, bacon bits and a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir everything together. Give it a taste and adjust as necessary.

Separate the cheese so you don’t get huge clumps on your toast.

  • Spread a forkful of the mix onto each of the pieces of bread. Pop them in the oven until the cheese is baked to a golden brown. This should take about 8-10 minutes. If you value having sensation in the roof of your mouth, as well as the ability to taste your food, let them cool for at least 3 minutes before serving.

Resist the urge to put too much on each piece, it will spill over and be a waste of cheesy goodness.

Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza

Red checkered tablecloth sold separately.

Living in New York we’ve come to realize that pizza allegiances border on religious zealotry to which we say, why restrict yourself when it comes to pie? Thanks to Jake’s friend Sandy’s suggestion we tried making a deep dish pizza in a cast iron skillet and, to no one’s surprise, the woman was right. It’s almost too easy, which is to say, why aren’t you making one right now?

Equipment Needed: Cast Iron Skillet, Frying Pan, Mixing Bowl, Chef’s Knife, Cutting Board, Microplane,Wooden Spoon

Serving Suggestion: Family Style

Servings: 4-6

Suggested Wine Pairing: Chianti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Cabernet Sauvignon

Suggested Beer Pairing: Red Ales, less-hoppy Pale Ales, Brown Ales, Amber Ales

Ingredients:

  • 1 pre-made ball of pizza dough (we used a garlic herb dough that suited us just fine)(about $1.99/package)
  • 1 lb Italian sausage ($3.99/lb)
  • 1 small bunch of broccoli ($2.99/bunch)
  • 1  small onion ($0.99/lb)
  • 1 small red bell pepper ($2.99/lb)
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella ($7.99/lb)
  • 3 cloves garlic ($2.99/lb)
  • 2 TBSP fresh rosemary ($1.50/bunch)
  • 1 – 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes ($2.19/each)
  • 1/3 C shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese ($12.99/lb)
  • extra virgin olive oil ($9.99/32 oz)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preparation:

  • Preheat your oven to 400° F.
  • Mince your garlic cloves and rosemary together to get them as fine as possible.
  • Put a frying pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil to the bottom to help keep things moving. Remove the sausages from their casings, throw them in the pan and break them up with your spoon. Toss in the garlic and rosemary and cook until lightly browned (about 5-8 minutes).

Be careful not to overcook the sausage, it's still going in the oven once you're done here.

  • While the sausage is cooking away, pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into your cast iron skillet. Rub the oil around the pan so the sides and bottom are evenly coated. Proceed to spread the pizza dough across the bottom and up to the top of the skillet’s rim. Remember, this is a deep dish so you want to make a crust that can support the mountain of toppings you’re about to add.

You're gonna need to work the dough a bit to get it to stay up along the sides.

  • Cut your mozzarella into 1/8th inch – 1/4 inch slices and line the bottom of the crust. That’s right, traditional Chicago deep dish puts the cheese on first. Here’s a towel to wipe up your mind that just got blown all over.

We highly recommend splurging on the freshest mozzarella you can find for this one; it's a noticeable difference.

  • Slice up your onion and pepper into thin strips and cut your broccoli into small florets. Spread these veggies evenly over the top of the cheese.
  • Open the can of tomatoes and pour them into a large mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and some crushed red pepper if you want to give it a little kick. When the sausage is done pour it in with the tomatoes and stir everything together. Spoon it into the pie to cover everything and make sure to distribute the sauce evenly for uniform cooking.

Spread the sauce evenly and fill every space not occupied by cheese or veggies.

  • Pop that monster into the oven for about 20 minutes. You’ll have to check in on your pizza around 18 minutes and every couple of minutes after that to make sure things are cooking evenly. The crust should be crispy and the sauce should be bubbling when it’s done. Grate on some Parmigiano to finish things off and let it rest for about 10 minutes to allow the toppings to set up a bit for easier serving and eating; the skillet will keep it warm.

Fried Eggplant with Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio pesto brings this one to a new level.

At our parents house last week, Mom decided she wanted some eggplant. never content to leave well enough alone we decided to up the ante and add a delicious pesto variation, some fresh tomatoes from the garden, and some fresh mozzarella. The result was a delicious Italian-inspired lunch celebrating the final flavors of summer.

Equipment Needed: Frying Pan, Spatula, 2 Baking Sheets, Food Processor, Chef’s Knife, Cutting Board, 2 Plates, Bowl, Fork

Serving Suggestion: Individual Plating

Servings: 6

Suggested Wine Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sauvignon Blanc

Suggested Beer Pairing: Lager, Pilsner, Belgian White

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 small eggplants ($1.49/lb)
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella ($6.99/lb)
  • 2 C fresh basil ($3/bunch, you’ll need about 2 bunches)
  • 4 eggs ($2/dozen)
  • Panko bread crumbs (around $3/12 oz)
  • Flour ($1.89/2 lbs)
  • 1/2 C pistachios (about $8/lb)
  • Parmagiano Reggiano cheese ($10/lb)
  • Fresh lemon juice ($0.50/lemon)
  • Extra virgin olive oil ($9.99/34 oz bottle)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($2.99/lb)
  • 2 TBSP water (free)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Pesto Preparation:

  • Shell the pistachios and toss them in the food processor.
  • Wash your basil and take the leaves off the stems, measure out a loosely packed 2 cups and add them to the food processor as well.
  • Peel and halve the garlic cloves. For now, add only one of them to the mix. Drizzle in about 3 TBSP of olive oil and add roughly 1/4 C of cheese (you can add it in slices, small chunks or grate it). Pulse the mixture until it becomes a paste.

Don't be stingy with the oil, you want to be able to spread the pesto easily.

Ditto for the cheese. Don't be afraid to load it up.

  • Add 1 TBSP lemon juice (a big lemon’s worth), a pinch of salt and about 1/2 TBSP pepper. Hit pulse a few more times and adjust the pesto to your taste with more of any of the ingredients. We like to have a bit more of the pistachio and cheese flavor.

Eggplant Preparation:

  • Wash your eggplant and slice it into 1/4 inch discs (peel the eggplant beforehand if you like for a more tender bite; we did them half and half). Place on a baking sheet and salt liberally. Let them sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the salt to draw out some of their natural bitterness.

Cut into even-sized discs for quick, even cooking.

  • While the veggies are doing their osmosis thing, mix your eggs in a bowl with about 2 TBSP warm water. Pour the breadcrumbs on one plate and flour on another plate. Use about a cup of each at a time so you don’t get everything eggy all at once.
  • Pat the eggplant slices dry. To coat them,  dredge the pieces in flour, give them a quick dip in the eggwash, and then coat them with Panko. Return them to the baking sheet. Slice the mozzarella into 1/4 inch slices and have at the ready.

Pat the eggplant dry before you coat them.

Double coating it helps everything adhere better.

  • Preheat your oven to 250° F (this is to keep the eggplant warm while you fry the other pieces). Put your frying pan over medium head and coat the bottom of the pan liberally with olive oil.
  • Fry the eggplant pieces until nicely browned (about 3-4 minutes per side). Add back to the baking sheet and when a full sheet is done cover each slice with mozzarella and put them in the oven while you finish the others. Add more olive oil to the pan as required to keep things running smoothly.
  • Serve with the pesto, balsamic vinegar and sliced tomatoes if desired (highly recommended).

Corleone Chicken Parmigiana

If Fredo could've cooked like this they might've spared him.

If Fredo could've cooked like this they might've spared him.

Make your stomach an offer it can’t refuse with this capo di tutti cappi of Italian classics.  Use the leftover pasta sauce on, duh, pasta.

Equipment Needed: Oven, 9 x 13 Baking Pan (we prefer glass or ceramic), Plate, Bowl, Chef’s Knife, Cutting Board, Meat Thermometer

Serving Suggestion: Individual Plating

Servings: 4

Suggested Wine Pairing: Sangiovese, Chianti, Tempranillo, Malbec

Suggested Beer Pairing: Peroni, Light Ales

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts ($4.99/lb)
  • 2 cups of Italian Style breadcrumbs ($2.99/24 oz package)
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella ($6.99/lb)
  • 2 jumbo eggs ($2.50/dozen)
  • 1 26 oz. jar marinara sauce (about $4)
  • Fresh basil (about $4 a package)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preparation

  • Preheat your oven to 375° F. Don’t forget to do this first, you can’t cook in a cold oven no matter how good you are.
  • Wash and trim any excess fat from the chicken breasts. Separate the eggs and place the egg whites in a bowl. Spread the breadcrumbs on your plate.
  • Dunk each chicken breast in the egg white and dredge evenly in the breadcrumbs. Place them in the baking pan and season them a bit more with a few dashes of salt and pepper, then throw those puppies in the oven for 30 minutes.
Coat each piece evenly and thoroughly.

Coat each piece evenly and thoroughly.

  • Slice the mozzarella into pieces of even thickness. Remove the chicken breasts from the oven and spoon the marinara sauce over each piece, then place the cheese on top of that. Toss it back in the oven for another 10 minutes, or until your meat thermometer reads around 165° F. Remove and let stand for 5 minutes before serving; your tongue will thank you for not scorching it with molten mozz. Buon appetito!

Get saucy

Get saucy.

Luca likes his Chicken Parmigiana cheese. Capisce?

Luca likes his Chicken Parmigiana cheesy. Capisce?