Friday, April 22, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Chicken Parmesan

I don't know anyone who doesn't like Italian food. Such people must exist, but I don't know any of them. As any Italian will tell you, the secret to a good chicken parmesan is the sauce. As an Italian myself (ed note: you are not Italian. Yes I am. My great-grandmother's nanny was Italian. That makes me 1/64 Italian. ed: I stand corrected) I took coming up with a sauce recipe seriously. Going into my first attempt I knew only one thing: it needed to be thick and hearty. Oh--two things: it needed to be unafraid of garlic three--three things: it needed to be thick and hearty; unafraid of garlic; and spicy but not hot.

I won't say I ever made a bad sauce, but I will say it took me awhile to make something I was proud of. It was mainly a matter of figuring out what spices in what amounts (ed: genius). I've got something now I think is pretty damned delicious and it forms the basis for my...

(click to enlarge)

Chicken Parmesan (serves 4)


4 skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
three eggs, beaten
bread crumbs
canola oil
fresh parmesan


30 oz tomato sauce
2-3 tomatoes, diced
4 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
3 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sage
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

I am lucky in that I have a constant supply of fresh canned tomatoes from Donna's family so my sauce starts from a really good base. Because of this, I don't actually use canned sauce and tomatoes. But if I wasn't able to mooch off someone else's garden I would. If you don't have access to the fresh stuff, I'd suggest using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, but hey, do what you want. I won't judge.

Whatever you're using, get it boiling in a large skillet along with all the spices, garlic, and tomato paste. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce. The longer it simmers, the better. Taste it occasionally to make sure the taste is what you're looking for. That's the best piece of advice I can give when making a sauce: taste it!

Give it at least a half hour, then heat some oil over medium high heat. While it's heating, get three small bowls. Fill one with flour, one with three beaten eggs, and one with your bread crumbs.

A quick aside on breadcrumbs: An easy shortcut is to use italian-style breadcrumbs. No shame there. If you want to get a little more adventurous, start with plain breadcrumbs and add your own spices. I'd suggest garlic powder, oregano, basil, paprika, and salt. Play around with the mix until you get something you like. End of aside.

You can do this next step simultaneously with the preparation of the chicken. Get a pan of water going on high to cook some pasta. I use spaghetti, but to each his own. Salt the water and boil until al dente and drain. You can declare your pasta done at this point. I won't judge, but be aware that some Italians might stab you with a sharpened pasta spoon. What I like to do it get another skillet going on medium with some olive oil, garlic, and oregano. When the oil is hot remove the pan from the heat, add the pasta, and stir it around for about 30 seconds or so. Now it's ready to plate.

Coat the chicken breasts in flour, then in the egg wash, then in the breadcrumbs. Put into the hot oil. Once all the breasts are in the pan and the oil is really popping, reduce the heat to medium. Turn when the side that is submerged in the oil is nice and brown, which should only take a few minutes. Flip them over and cook on the other side for about the same amount of time. If you need to, cut into them to make sure they're done all the way through. Nothing messes up a chicken dish like raw chicken.

It sounds like a lot to keep track of. The best way I can think to keep yourself calm in the heat of the kitchen is to open a bottle of wine. For this meal I was enjoying one of my favorite wines: a Red Rock malbec. I've been drinking a lot of malbec lately, and Red Rock is one of the best one I've found. It's really full with a ton of flavor, and at about $11-$12 a bottle I highly recommend it.

Plate the pasta, using a fork to give it a twist. Place the chicken breast on top. Cover with a healthy helping of the sauce. Grate some fresh parmesan on top so it can melt.

I have a thing for fresh garnishes, so I took a couple of roma tomatoes, removed the seeds, and diced them. I piled them in the center of the breast and covered with some fresh black pepper and parsley. Add another glass of wine and you've got yourself a meal.

No comments:

Post a Comment