Melissa Clark has to be one of the most prolific food writers and cooks in all of history. There’s her constant presence in the Food Section of The New York Times, where week after she creates some of our most memorable meals. Just type Melissa Clark into our search function and you’ll see what I mean. And then there are her cookbooks. They now number 39 with the arrival of “Favorite Recipes from Melissa Clark’s Kitchen” (Black Dog and Leventhal 2018) which landed under our Christmas tree this year. Meanwhile I am still working my way through last year’s “Dinner: Changing the Game” (Clarkson Potter 2017). I have a way to go since, for instance, there are no less than 26 recipes of Chicken alone in “Dinner”. It’s hard to know where to start with Melissa. The lavish photographs of her dishes are all so appealing. Or as Yotam Ottolenghi is quoted as saying “The recipes in “Dinner” are everything I want for my dinner”. I did find one place I wanted to start. It was Melissa recipe for something she called “Pizza Chicken”.
My fondness for the real thing, Pizza is well known. I consider pizza the perfect food combining as it does basically all the food groups in one glorious pie: Protein, Vegetables, Dairy and Carbohydrates. Melissa Clark’s Pizza Chicken will thrill those who love gooey mozzarella and luscious tomatoes but can live without the Carbs. They’ve been replaced by gorgeous crispy brown-skinned chicken atop a lovely spicy sauce. This is not a hard dish to achieve. Cooked in stages, all in one pot, the flavors build, each ingredient adding their own personality to the dish.
It starts with the pancetta which is sautéed until crispy and brown. The chicken is cooked directly in the pancetta fat adding a porky goodness. Once beautifully browned the chicken leaves the skillet to be replaced by garlic, anchovies, capes, chile flakes and finally ripe cherry tomatoes, reliably flavorful no matter the season. Don’t leave out the anchovies. These melt down and have absolutely nothing to do with your memory of the last bad Caesar Salad you were served. They’re just another layer of flavor here. Back in goes the chicken and the skillet goes into the oven baking the flavor into it. Finally, fresh mozzarella in the form of boccacini gives you that ultimate pizza topping. Garnished with basil, the dish should be enjoyed with crusty bread to sop up every drop of deliciousness. Melissa used a cut up three-and a half pound chicken. I went with four thighs which cut the recipe down to size for two. I kept all the other ingredients exactly as Melissa wrote it. Here is the original recipe.
And after the recipe, I’ve linked 2 more of Melissa’s most popular posts on CTF.
Melissa Clark's Pizza Chicken with Pancetta, Mozzarella and Spicy Tomatoes
Luscious pizza flavors combined with crispy-skinned chicken make this dish heaven for pizza lovers--especially those who love the taste of pizza but can live without the carbs.
- 3 ½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces (or use a 3 1/2 pound chicken cut into 8 pieces)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 ounces pancetta, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 anchovy fillets
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
- 1 large basil sprig, plus more chopped basil for serving
- 8 ounces bocconcini, halved (or use mozzarella cut into 3/4-inch pieces)
- Step 1 Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
- Step 2 In a large oven-proof skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Step 3 Add chicken to skillet. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil.
- Step 4 Add garlic, anchovy and red pepper flakes to skillet, fry 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spatula, until sauce thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.
- Step 5 Return chicken to skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 30 minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven. Be careful! The handle will be extremely hot/
- Step 6 Scatter bocconcini or mozzarella pieces over skillet. Adjust oven temperature to broil. Return skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to see that it does not burn). Garnish with pancetta and chopped basil before serving.