Friday, September 18, 2009

Recipe #5: Chicken Parmigiana

There are several ways to cook this, and it's one of my husband's favorites so I've pretty much tried them all. This particular recipe -- which involves covering the chicken cutlets with sauce and baking them -- is his favorite as well as mine, because to us, it seems to have the most flavor. You may also notice that this recipe doesn't use mozzarella cheese. Aside from the fact that it seems to make things too heavy for my taste (of course, you can choose to use it), it also makes me very sick to my stomach, so I use parmesan cheese instead and none of the flavor is lost! It's not necessarily a quick recipe, but the time it takes is so worth it. Please note -- wherever you see a (*) next to an ingredient or tool, there is a comment about it below the recipe. Enjoy!

Chicken Parmigiana

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

2 cups uncooked pasta (any variety)
2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes with basil
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
4 cloves garlic*
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream*
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 cups panko bread crumbs*
2 cups parmesan (or parmigiano reggiano cheese)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 eggs
4-5 thin cut chicken breast filets*
2 cups flour

two dishes and one bowl for dredging/flouring/breading chicken
13x9 pan/Pyrex
large pot
large skillet
medium sauce pan

To make sauce: Add four teaspoons olive oil to heated sauce pan (heat on medium-high), allow to heat for 5-7 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, teaspoon salt, teaspoon pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese, garlic and red pepper flakes and stir with oil to combine and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add heavy cream, stir to combine. Simmer for additional 5 minutes, then set aside. *Yields about a quart and a half.

Begin prep for chicken by heating butter and remaining olive oil (yes, both) in skillet on medium heat. Take 13x9 pan, and cover bottom with a layer of sauce. Preheat oven to 400.

Set up a dredging station for the chicken -- one plate should be just flour, a second should contain panko breadcrumbs and 1 1/2 cups of parmesan cheese, garlic powder, teaspoon each of salt and pepper and teaspoon parsley. Bowl should contain four eggs, beaten.

Dredge chicken by flouring first, placing in egg second, and into panko last. Use spoon to cover chicken with the breadcrumbs, ensuring they're distributed evenly.

As chicken is thoroughly coated, transfer to heated skillet. Turn after 1 minute, or when golden brown on underside.

After both sides are browned, add to 13x9 pan. When all chicken is browned and in 13X9, pour additional sauce over chicken (reserve approximately 1 1/2 cups), sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and parsley.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

While chicken is baking, boil pasta. Drain, and add back to pot. Ladle remaining sauce into pan, and mix with pasta.

Remove chicken from oven when cheese is slightly browned.

Serve chicken over pasta.

-Garlic: I don't usually use fresh garlic when I cook, unless it's going to be almost raw in the dish. What I use instead is a huge jar of Spice World minced garlic. It saves me the time of having to chop (and have my hands smell like) garlic for any given recipe. For this recipe, if you use the jarred garlic, use two tablespoons.

-Heavy Cream: I use this to thicken the sauce, and because adding just a small amount makes it richer, while not making it too heavy. You also would never taste the cream in the sauce, and it shouldn't ever be visible -- make sure you mix well! If you prefer, you can leave it out of this sauce.

-Breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs are Japanese bread crumbs that are flakier than regular bread crumbs. You will notice a different texture when you see them during dredging; they only make the chicken crispier. If all you have on hand is regular bread crumbs, you can use those, but Panko isn't hard to find in most supermarkets.

-Chicken: I bought very thinly sliced cutlets for this recipe. They are a little more expensive than whole chicken breast ($3.99/pound) but worth it. It saves me from having to cut all the fat off, and are already very thin so tenderizing isn't necessary.

-Reserve "bowl" for sauce: This is entirely optional, but when I was done cooking the sauce, I transferred it to a handy little glass bowl in my arsenal of cookware -- the Classic Batter Bowl from Pampered Chef. It's basically a giant measuring cup-shaped bowl with a spout on it for easy pouring (like pouring it over the chicken once it's cooked), and comes with a lid so any leftover sauce can be stored in the fridge. I have the larger batter bowl which holds two quarts. It's shown in the pic below with the spice container next to it for size reference. I just find it very handy! If you want to see what I'm talking about, you can find the batter bowl right HERE.

-Sauce: I doubled the recipe I would normally use for sauce, because this recipe requires a lot. You will inevitably be left with some sauce. No problem there -- just store covered in the fridge, reheat in a sauce pan, and serve with pasta.

-Bowl recommendations: For my dredging and baking, I generally use Pyrex bowls/bakeware, because I received more than you can shake a stick at for my bridal shower. I *LOVE* Pyrex (and I'm not getting anything for saying that!) because it's oven-safe, ensures even cooking, and comes with lids for easy storage of leftovers. It's totally find if you don't have it though, just make sure that whatever you do use to cook the chicken in the oven is actually oven safe!

-Cooking chicken: When you're cooking it to delicious golden brownness in the pan before baking, don't worry that you're only cooking it for a minute. You're not trying to cook it through -- just making it look pretty and browning the outside. It will cook through in the oven. Also, if you find the pan getting dry when browning, add a little bit more olive oil.

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