I read an article recently about Millennials (yes, I realize how “Millennial” it is of me to be reading articles about Millennials) and it really ignited something in me. It’s a long read but, to paraphrase, it essentially notes that most people think we have cushy lives and like to complain about it, but there is a lot of data to show that our exclamations on how hard our lives can be are, in fact, pretty damn true. While I won’t go into too much detail, it did make me feel better that there are legitimate reasons for why I struggle so much to afford to live in my shoebox apartment in a large city on what is only a little more than a minimum wage salary. It makes me feel better to say that I feel “burnout” when I don’t want to work on my side hustle and watch The Bachelor instead. It provides some sort of reasoning for why I just now replaced a lightbulb in my bathroom that’s been out for over a year.
The article also goes on to talk about how a lot of the things that are good for us, that are supposed to be activities that are relaxing and rejuvenating, often feel bad. For example, I go to yoga to enter a space of meditation but somehow thoughts of debt and to-do lists shroud my shavasana body. I go to acupuncture to relieve my stress-induced neck tension, yet the thought of spending an hour laying on a table when I could be working on an art commission just adds more stress.
I mean, just look at this food blog here. Remember when it used to get so much love? Two posts a month! I laugh at that now. Now we’re lucky if I scrape together a pot of rice, divide it between two pyrex containers, and call that meal prepping. Sometimes I actually buy a cheap large pizza because I know that it can be 4 affordable meals. It becomes harder and harder to be healthy, to enjoy putting together nourishing and exciting meals. It’s too exhausting to plan. To execute. To clean up after.
Luckily, my energy to do these enjoyable life activities seems to be coming back. Maybe it’s the new year, success in the dating realm, a random streak of sunny days, and the prospects of a trip to Mexico in two weeks? Who knows. But somehow I fell asleep in acupuncture today and woke up feeling like a new person. I went to yoga and actually focused on my breathing. And, for some reason, the fates had me scrolling through my safari tabs on my phone the other day (I have about 40, do not judge me) and I just felt so inspired to make a recipe for “Pizza Chicken” that I had opened on my phone years ago. I made a shopping list! I splurged on San Marzano tomatoes! I planned a side salad! …Though I will say the salad is now becoming a bit of a normal thing these days because I’ve just been drenching kale in Ina Garten’s shallot mustard dressing and it’s like crack to me. Not a bad addiction tbh.
But Pizza Chicken. Oh man. Lemme tell you about this. It’s my new thing. It’s basically a vat of tangy/spicy/smoky tomato sauce and you put some chicken thighs that you seared in bacon fat inside and cover it with mozzarella. Yep. It actually does taste like pizza. It’s a game changer. And maybe part of the point is that it’s supposed to save you carbs but still feel like comfort food? However, it does end up being kinda soupy so I dish it out onto a big ole pile of cheesy polenta and OMG it’s heaven. Then, your shallot dressing salad gets a bit of the overflow of the tomato sauce mixed in too and you’ll never be happier that your foods mingle a little bit. It’s not necessarily the easiest dish, or the cheapest dish. It takes the time and the effort that goes along with giving a shit about food but, overpowering my millennial mindset that takeout will solve my problems, it is worth it.
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 strips of thick smoked bacon, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 Tbs capers, drained
1/4 tsp. red chili flakes
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
2 pints fresh cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 8oz container of small mozzarella balls
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Place a cast iron dutch oven on the stove. Add the bacon to the pot and set it to medium-high. Cook the bacon until crispy and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Set aside.
In the pot with the bacon grease, add the chicken thighs. Cook for 4 minutes each side until browned but not yet cooked fully through. Transfer to the plate with the bacon.
In the same pot with the bacon and chicken residue still fully there, add the garlic, capers, and chili flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the cherry tomatoes and the basil. Additionally, fish out the whole tomatoes from the can of tomatoes and add them to the pot along with a splash of the tomato juice. Discard the rest. Cook on the stove for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and pressing on the cherry tomatoes with your spoon to release some juices.
Transfer the bacon and the chicken back to the pan. Stir well and place in the oven for 25 minutes. At this point you can prepare polenta if you’d like, or another starch, and make the dressing for a side salad.
Remove the pot from the oven and scatter the mozzarella balls overtop. Place back in the oven for a few more minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve on its own or overtop polenta with your salad. Make sure each serving has plenty of mozzarella and the briny/bacony sauce.