I judge an Italian restaurant by it’s lasagna and by it’s parmigiana. And if I like it, I go back. If I don’t, well… I don’t. I love eggplant parmigiana since that is the traditional Sicilian dish I grew up with. My husband hates eggplant. Loathes eggplant. The only way I can get eggplant into a dish is to make it part of my tomato sauce and run it through a food mill. I’m not kidding. Since he is so adverse to the whole idea of eggplant parmigiana, I decided to compromise and settle for being really good at chicken parmigiana. There is some debate over whether the dish is named for the Parmesan cheese in the breading or if it’s because it originated in the region of Parma, but I’m not really concerned over that. My greatest concern is always the breading. I’ve learned to take my time and season all the layers, but I wanted to come up with a recipe that works. Every. Single. Time. Below is the result of all my trial and error and the cause of the few extra pounds around my middle. Apparently, the fact that I always serve this dish with green beans does not negate the fact that I always over indulge.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 cups finely ground bread crumbs
- 2 oz parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- 2 eggs
- Pasta and basic tomato sauce to finish the dish
- Fresh mozzarella
The first step in this recipe is to pound out the chicken so that it is about half of it’s original thickness. This of course, is specific to each piece of meat, but it’s easiest done if you first put the chicken in a large freezer bag, seal it and then pound it out with a meat hammer or heavy ladle. Once the meat is to the desired thickness, season it lightly with the salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the breading. You will note that I call for 2 oz of cheese and by that I mean a hunk of cheese, not the kind in the shaker can from the grocery. You can use that, but it won’t be as good. I’ve tried. It’s not the same.
Cut the cheese up into smallish pieces and whiz them in a food processor until they are finely ground. Then mix them in with the bread crumbs. Whisk the eggs together until they are well beaten. Heat a small amount of oil in a saute pan until it is hot. Then, coat the chicken first in the flour, then the egg and finally the breading as pictured here. Place each piece of meat in the pan and cook until it’s nicely browned. Then, remove the meat to a baking dish. I don’t recommend cooking more than 2 pieces of meat at a time so as not to crowd the pan and drop the oil temperature. This part of the dish requires some time and loving care, but it’s worth it in the end. Once all the meat has been browned and the breading has formed a lovely golden crust, it’s time to put it into a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Don’t cover the pan, don’t poke the chicken, just put it in there and prepare some pasta to go along with the chicken. The less you mess with the meat, the more tender and juicy it will be. If you are serving this meal to people who must have their chicken parm smothered in cheese a la most restaurants, wait until the chicken is done cooking, them slice a bit of fresh mozzarella and run the chicken under a broiler until the cheese is melted. This is a nice finish to the dish, but I didn’t feel it was totally necessary. I liked it just with the tomato sauce and pasta. But to each his own.