Sunday 27 February 2022

Chicken Parmigiana

It all started a long time ago with eggplant!

The classic Italian dish of eggplant sautéed in olive oil and layered with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Though the name means "eggplant in the style of Parma," a Northern Italian city, the dish originates in Southern Italy where eggplants, tomatoes, and olive oil are plentiful. In fact, real classic eggplant parm is made solely with mozzarella cheese—it doesn't necessarily have Parmesan at all. 
Chicken made its appearance when Italian immigrants brought the dish to the U.S., a country where meat was both plentiful and cheap. Very quickly, the sautéed eggplant was replaced wholesale with breaded chicken cutlets (or veal cutlets, or even pork, as the case may be). A few years later, Parmesan cheese started becoming a standard addition (perhaps because the name seemed to imply it, but more likely because it just tastes better with it), and an Italian-American classic was born. Since then, as often happens when things go mainstream, chicken parmesan has gone from being a beloved and once-a-year comfort food to an institutionalized, mass-produced, inoffensive staple. 
I have created a recipe to fix that by bringing chicken parmigiano back to its roots, optimizing every step, and creating a recipe that celebrates the dish in all of its cheesy, crispy, sauce-smothered, American glory. 
Chicken Parmigiano
3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 c. buttermilk, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper
6 ounces of grated Parmesan Cheese
2 cups Panko/bread crumbs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 recipe Basic Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (high heat oil)
12 ounces fresh Mozzarella cut into 1/2 inch slices- do not use water packed
2 T fresh parsley and basil mixed
Cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally to thin them. Then, using a meat mallet, pound the chicken breasts to 1/4" thickness. I used plastic wrap on top of the chicken.
Transfer to a bowl and add  buttermilk and garlic, plus 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. For best results, let the chicken marinate for 4 hours covered tightly with plastic wrap, but, minimum of 1 hour. (You can do this the night before as well)

Put the Panko and Parmesan into a shallow pan, season with salt and pepper.
Put flour into another pan.
Whisk the eggs in a small bowl.

Taking one piece of chicken at a time, add to flour mixture, coating both sides. Shaking off excess and dipping it into the egg mixture, again, shake off excess. Third step is coating the chicken in the Panko/Parmesan mixture, coating the chicken and pressing it down firmly so that a thick layer adheres.
Repeat the process with the remaining chicken, putting them onto a baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 425 F degrees.
Heat the Basic tomato Sauce in a medium saucepan.
Heat the oil in a non stick skillet over medium/high heat until it registers 375 Fa degrees or sizzles when you put a loose bread crumb in it. 
Working with several cutlets, add the chicken to the oil carefully. Do not crowd pan, 2-3.

Brown the cutlets and use a spatula the flip the chicken, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels.


In a oven safe baking pan put about 1/3 of the Basic Tomato Sauce on the bottom.
Place the cutlets in a single layer into the sauce. Top with remaining sauce, forming a line of sauce down the center of each cutlet.
Slice the Mozzarella thinly, lay the cheese slices over each cutlet and sprinkle a little Parmesan over that.

Bake in oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from oven.

Let them cool and rest for about 4-5 minutes and then, top with the herb mixture.

* If making for a dinner party and you have a vegetarian, this recipe works with eggplant. Skip the buttermilk marinade.
Basic Tomato Sauce
2 T. unsalted butter 
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. diced onions
1/2 c. diced carrots1/2 c. diced celery
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T flour
1 can (28 ounces) Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. basil
2 T tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan, heat butter and oil. Cook the onions, carrots and celery until soft, but not brown; about 6-8 minutes. Use low heat and cover pan; vegetables will not burn.
Add flour, stir well, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, partially cover the pan and cook for one hour, stirring often. If sauce gets too thick, add a little chicken or beef stock to it.
After one hour, strain sauce through sieve. Can be frozen.
 *This Basic tomato sauce is delicious with meat loaf as well 
Left overs ........if you are lucky enough to have any, tomorrows lunch!

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