Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Italian-American Classic: Chicken Parmesan

There is nothing quite like a bubbling and gooey tray of homemade Chicken Parmesan. This classic dish is an Italian-American standard that induces glorious checkered tablecloth day dreams. I love  good chicken parm. Leftovers make spectacular sandwiches assuming you have any leftovers as guest gobble each and every available morsel. The issue with a lot of recipes though is oil. You don't need to deep fry the breaded cutlets; you simply need enough oil to impact flavor and provide the satisfying browning and crunch that a good chicken parm should deliver. I've had a lot of mediocre dishes over the years, but this recipe seems to hit the mark every time. The trick is not only keeping the oil use under control, but also not drowning the chicken in sauce. When I layer my chicken cutlets into the baking dish I use the bare minimum of sauce. It helps keep the breading together and lends a bit more crusty crunch if you keep the moisture down. You can always top with more sauce upon serving! Buon Appetito!

Classic Chicken Parmesan
(by A Girl and Her Kitchen)

2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breasts
10 slices provolone cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmesan, grated
1/2 cup pecornio, grated
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
3 cups plain bread crumbs
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp grated parmesan (for breading)
2 tbsp grated pecorino (for breading)
salt and pepper
Olive oil and vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cups flour
3 eggs, whisked with 2 tbsp milk
1 batch of basic marinara sauce (recipe follows)

Place chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin or flat end of a meat tenderizer, pound out the chicken breasts into 1/2 – 1/4 inch thickness. Cut each breast in half (optional, though easier to handle when cut in half).

Set up a breading station using three wide dishes or bowls. In the first wide dish place the flour. In the second, whisk the eggs and milk. In the third combine the bread crumbs, oregano, basil, pecorino, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.  Dip each breast in the flour, coating all sides. Shake off excess and then dip in the egg mixture, coating all sides. Let excess drip off and then coat in the breadcrumb mixture. 
In a large sauté pan, heat a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil over medium heat (need about ¼ of an inch of oil in the bottom of the pan or less). When the oil is hot, working in batches brown the chicken, cooking 3 minutes on each side. Replenish the oil as needed.
Prepare a large baking dish with a thin layer of sauce spread across the bottom. Place the browned chicken in the dish in a single layer. Lay one whole basil leaf on top of each chicken breast. Place a large dollop of marinara sauce on top of each basil leaf. 
Lay the slices of provolone over the chicken. Layer the shredded mozzarella, parmesan and pecorino on top. 
Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Finish in the broiler for a golden brown crust. Serve with simple side salad.

Basic Marinara Sauce #2
(A Girl and Her Kitchen)

2 28oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 12oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 c red wine
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp oregano
1 bunch fresh basil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp dried basil
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy bottom dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion, shallot and garlic with a pinch of salt and pepper until softened. Add the dried herbs, a few whole fresh basil leaves and cook another minute. Add the wine and cook another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add a bit of salt and pepper as desired. Simmer for at least 30 minutes partially covered. See optional note below for additional cooking method. 15 minutes before serving, stir in the remaining fresh basil leaves and cook at a simmer uncovered.

Optional: After simmering for 30 minutes, you may fully cover sauce and place in a 300 oven for an hour. Remove from oven and cook partially covered another 30 minutes to reduce a bit more.

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