Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chicken Parmigiana Revisited

Call it chicken parmesan, parmigiana, or parm, most of the time this winds up being a soggy, insipid dish. BUT--never fear, dear readers, I have improved it! The trick is to put the chicken (or veal) cutlets on top of the sauce, which keeps the breading from getting soft. I keep the cutlets small so that they have more crispy surface area and I use noodles instead of spaghetti, so it serves like a casserole. Overall, it helps to use high-quality ingredients for maximum flavor--the ones listed below are ideal, but you can use block mozarella, canned sauce, etc...

1.5 lb. chicken breasts
1.5 c. flour
3 eggs, beaten
1.5 c. panko crumbs
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

1 large can plum tomatoes
1 large can diced tomatoes
1/4 c. olive oil
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves + 2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. red wine
1 Tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. dried basil or a handful of fresh
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste + more black pepper

Noodle Base and Topping
3/4 lb. bow-tie or ziti pasta
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 c. ground Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 lb. fresh mozarella
3 Tbsp. ground Pecorino Romano
1 c. blanched and chopped spinach (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°. Butter a 7"x11" baking dish.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Sweat the onions with the red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt until the onions start to brown slightly, then add the 3 cloves garlic and stir until it becomes fragrant. Add the oregano, black pepper, and dried basil. Stir in the tomato paste to coat. Add the wine and use it to deglaze the pan. Puree the plum tomatoes, and add them to the pan, along with the can of diced tomatoes and the bay leaves. Simmer the sauce until it becomes thick, reduces in volume by about 40%, and loses its watery look--about 45 minutes. Crush the remaining garlic and thinly slice the fresh basil, and add to the sauce to simmer 2 more minutes. Add more black pepper and adjust the salt.

To make the cutlets, slice the chicken into pieces about the size of the palm of your hand. Pound to flatten. Sprinkle the pieces liberally with salt and pepper. Toss them in flour to coat. Heat up enough oil to pan-fry them. Dip the floured pieces in the egg and then dredge them in the panko crumbs. Fry the cutlets until golden brown, taking care not to crowd the pan. You can drain them now for use later, or place them directly on the noodles and sauce (see below).
Assembly instructions.

Boil the noodles in well-salted water until cooled al dente. Drain them and toss with olive oil, chopped spinach, and black pepper. Place the noodles in the baking dish and sprinkle with some of the Parmigiano and Pecorino. Ladle the sauce over the noodles, then arrange the cutlets over the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the top, then slice the mozarella and place it over the cutlets.

Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese starts to brown slightly at the edges. Enjoy!

Finished product!

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