Phil doesn’t like to mess with a classic.  He’s got his favorite pancake recipe,  the oven-fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits and gravy, the Thanksgiving turkey, and the potato dumplings that his Grandma used to make.  And, he is also adamant about my chicken parmigiana, which he professes to be “the best he’s ever had”. That’s why it took me so long to try Giada’s version, a streamlined, lightened up approach to this American-Italian goodie.  I tried to hide my game, but he saw some of the regular actors in the plot: chicken breast filets, mozzarella cheese, and my tomato sauce simmering on top of the stove.  He opened his brightest smile: “We are having chicken Parmigiana! YEAAAAH!”    I  replied with a sheepish smile:  “Well, sort of, it’s a kind of Parmigiana, yes, but not really, maybe almost Parmigiana, but not quite.  We’ll see if we like it.”   Silence.  A slight shudder of the shoulder, which I could not help but notice.  His body language went more or less like “Why would she do this to me?”  Why? For the simple thrill of it, of course! 😉

First, you must make your own tomato sauce, using good quality canned tomatoes.  I saute’ a little shallot in olive oil until fragrant, season with salt and red pepper flakes, add the tomatoes and some dried thyme, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then I use an immersion blender to turn it into a smooth sauce.

Next, you need to make a little seasoned oil.  I used thyme from my friend Cindy’s garden (yet another gift from my very thoughtful friend), and rosemary from our own plant here in Manhattan. Chop them finely, and add to the oil with a little salt. And freshly ground black pepper.

Brush the chicken cutlets on both sides with the oil, keep in the fridge for half an hour or so, if you have the time. If not, move on to the next step.

Sautee the cutlets in a very hot skillet with just a tiny coating of olive oil.  Once both sides are nicely golden, pour some  tomato sauce around and over the chicken.  Cover the pan and simmer gently for a few minutes.  Uncover, add grated mozzarella cheese on top of the meat, cover the pan again and bake on a 400F oven for 10 minutes.
Open the lid, turn the broiler on for a little while if you like your cheese to get a nice tan. It’s not mandatory, though… at this point, you have already reached the desired level of yumminess.

Serve with some spaghetti with your home-made tomato sauce, sprinkle Parmigiano cheese on top, and   ENJOY!

For Giada’s recipe, follow this link…

Comments:  When I make my own version of this dish,  I often omit the cheese in some pieces.  I tried it with this recipe (you might be able to notice one small piece of cheese-less chicken on the first photo), but I advise against it. In this particular preparation, the cheese will act as an important blanket for the cutlets that otherwise will be a bit dry.  What I love the most about this recipe is how easy it was to make it.  No need to have those three trays with breadcrumbs, flour, eggwash, and the result is quite a bit lighter but still delicious.  The herb oil adds a lot of flavor, don’t omit this step, and feel free to experiment with other spices and flavorings. Will it be the default Parmigiana in our home?  I doubt it, but it’s definitely a great option for those evenings that pop up right at the end of a hectic day at work.  😉

One more thing before I forget:  the pan I use is a Giada cast iron dish sold by Target.  I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I like it better than Le Creuset.  It is a lot cheaper, it works just as well, and the cleanup is a breeze!  My Le Creusets got stained from the first use, and never cleaned well, even using diluted bleach.  Giada’s pan still looks brand new, after many  encounters with tomatoes, red wine, and soy based sauces.  No, I don’t work for Target, and have no personal links to Giada.  In fact, I have never accepted  freebies from companies to write a review.  I only endorse stuff I love.  And I love, love, love this pan!  😉

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