When a person has a cookbook addiction, planning meals can be stressful. Like a dog with five balls to fetch, I go from one cookbook to another, saying to myself “this might be pretty good“, or “wow, I’ve got to make this one instead“… But, the thing is that the meals we love to eat, the ones we crave the most, are not from cookbooks. When I ask my husband what he’d like to have for dinner, he often says “you haven’t made chicken parmiggiana in a while“…. The truth is, I sometimes ask the question hoping for exactly that answer, as I also love it and crave it. My Mom used to make some type of parmiggiana all the time, chicken, beef, so I have lots of fond memories. Once I started making it for my own family, they also loved it, closing a wonderful cycle.
This post is written with a special someone in mind, my youngest stepson who is in college and starting to cook for himself and for friends. He’s had my chicken parmiggiana many times, I know he’l love to make it, so I’ll be going through every step showing exactly how I do it, in a Crash-Course: Chicken Parmiggiana 101.
Alex, this one’s for you! 😉
(family recipe; step by step photos after the jump)
3 boneless chicken breasts, preferably organic
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten with 2T water and a pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups tomato sauce (bottled or homemade)
shredded cheese (mozzarella or another melting cheese of your choice)
Butterfly the chicken breasts (see comments for explanation), season both sides with a little salt and pepper. Pound the fillets gently with the flat side of a meat mallet or the handle of a table knife, protecting the meat with plastic (Saran Wrap or similar).
Place three bowls or trays side by side, add flour to the first, season the flour with 1/2 tsp salt and a little black pepper. Add the beaten eggs to the second, and bread crumbs to the third. Coat the chicken fillets with flour, transfer to the egg mixture, coating both sides with it. Allow the excess to drip out, transfer the meat to the bread crumbs tray. Pat the bread crumbs well all over the meat, to make it stick.
Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan until very hot but not smoking. Fry each piece of chicken on the first side until golden, 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Turn to fry the second side for a similar amount of time. Remove from the oil and place over absorbent kitchen paper to blot excess oil. When all pieces are fried, place them in an oven-proof baking dish or cookie sheet, add tomato sauce and shredded cheese on top.
Place in a 350F oven for 15 minutes. If you like, turn the broiler on high for a couple of minutes to get a nice browning. Serve immediately with cooked pasta in tomato sauce, or any other side dish of your preference.
to print the recipe, click here
VERY IMPORTANT: anything that touches raw chicken should be carefully washed with detergent. Knives, forks, cutting boards. Any leftover flour, beaten egg, and bread crumbs should be discarded. Wash your hands very well after preparing this recipe.
Now, some step-by-step photos of the whole preparation…
Start with good quality chicken breasts and eggs…
A package with three breasts will provide six pieces of fillets for parmiggiana, (they freeze well, if you are cooking just for yourself, you’ll get three meals out of it). To start, you’ll need to slice them in half, what cooks like to call “butterflying” – a cut almost all the way through the center of the chicken, with the knife parallel to the cutting board. Then open the fillet as if opening a book, and divide into two pieces.
Next you need to gently pound the meat with a meat mallet like the one in the picture, using the flat side, and protecting the meat with plastic wrap. The goal is to get even thickness in the fillets, so that they will cook evenly. The meat is very delicate, using a piece of plastic to protect it will make sure you won’t tear it.
Now make a little “breading station”, with three bowls or trays lined up, the first one with all purpose flour, the second with beaten eggs, the third with bread crumbs.
Each piece will be coated with flour first, then beaten eggs, then bread crumbs.
The breaded pieces are cooked in vegetable oil, until golden on both sides, and placed over kitchen paper to blot excess oil…
Finally, some tomato sauce (in this case I used home-made), and shredded cheese are added on top of the chicken fillets.
Additional comments: You can vary this dish in many ways.
– use Japanese-style bread crumbs (Panko) to coat the chicken. I actually like a mixture of Panko and regular bread crumbs, sometimes adding also a little finely shredded parmiggiano cheese.
– add a little pesto sauce or a little shredded basil on top of the tomato sauce
– omit the cheese for a lighter version with tomato sauce only (I often make half without cheese to cut a few calories)
– omit the cheese and the tomato sauce (it won’t be a parmiggiana anymore, of course…) sprinkle a little lemon juice on top of the breaded fillets before placing in the oven.
If you want to freeze it, you can not only freeze the final dish, but also freeze the breaded, fried fillets. Once defrosted, add the tomato sauce and cheese, and bake it normally.