Each week I ask the girls if they have any special requests for dinner in the coming week and each time Eliza pipes up with Chicken Parm. The restaurant where she worked in Memphis this past semester, Tambolli’s Pizza and Pasta, has a chicken parm pizza that she says will be the first thing she eats when she finally gets to return to Memphis. I have had it and I agree it is really tasty, as was everything I had at that yummy restaurant – just one of many I hope will survive these crazy times. As I have said before, we all have to do our part to support local restaurants.
So chicken parmesan is essentially breaded and fried chicken breasts with tomato sauce and cheese. It is not difficult to make but there are several steps. The good news is that these steps can be done at different times so you don’t have to clear a bunch of time right before you eat to make dinner. I make the tomato sauce ahead of time and I also pound the chicken breasts (to thin them out) and bread them ahead of time. About an hour before eating, I assemble the chicken parm and stick it in the oven. I usually serve it with pasta (a good vessel for the tomato sauce) and salad. Sometimes I cut up the chicken into tender-sized pieces and serve those on their own with a honey-mustard sauce and fried potatoes (getting 2 uses out of my oil).
This recipe is loosely based on one from Tyler Florence – I omit a few things like Kalamata olives (um, no) and I use shredded mozzerella instead of a ball of fresh mozzarella. I also use fresh chopped fresh tomatoes in addition to the canned ones in the sauce, and the cans I use are crushed tomatoes instead of whole ones.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, drained
3 ripe tomatoes, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pasta, cooked al dente
Coat a saute pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil gets hazy, add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves; cook and stir for 5 minutes until fragrant and soft. Add some hand-torn basil. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes), cook and stir until the liquid is cooked down and the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes; season with sugar, salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover, and keep warm
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Get the ingredients together for the chicken so you have a little assembly line. Put the chicken breasts side by side on a cutting board and lay a piece of plastic wrap over them. (Note: I use wax paper.) Pound the chicken breasts with a flat meat mallet, until they are about 1/2-inch thick. Put the flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. In a wide bowl, combine the eggs and water, beat until frothy. Put the bread crumbs on a plate, season with salt and pepper.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high flame in a large oven-proof skillet. Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, and then dip them in the egg wash to coat completely, letting the excess drip off, then dredge in the bread crumbs. When the oil is nice and hot, add the cutlets and fry for 4 minutes on each side until golden and crusty, turning once.
Ladle the tomato-olive sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil. Bake the Chicken Parmesan for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with spaghetti.