Chicken Parmigiana

It’s not difficult to love chicken parmigiana. Crispy pieces of breaded chicken doused in tomato sauce and plenty of stretchy mozzarella cheese. I remember when I was little, I thought it was the most valuable meal you could get at an Italian-American restaurant since it also came with pasta on the side. Yeah… maybe I didn’t think of economic value so much as I liked being food greedy.

So one night when I was craving chicken parm I wanted to find a way to change up the flavor a little bit. With plenty of rosemary available outside my window, I thought that my chicken could benefit from that herb, brightening up its flavor with its sharp, piney taste. When rosemary is paired with chicken, lemon isn’t far behind, so I also wanted to add some lemon zest for a light, sunny citrus zing.

Into my blender, I blitzed some garlic, rosemary, lemon zest and olive oil then poured the herb-infused oil on top of my bed of panko crumbs and parmesan cheese. I went with panko because I wanted the large crumb crunch in the crust on the chicken and thought that the oil would then help with browning the crumbs. Flattened chicken cutlets were introduced to this crumb mixture after a quick bath in milk and egg, then lightly fried until toasty brown. I knew that these cutlets should then bake with the sauce and the mozzarella cheese but I wanted to avoid drying out the chicken from over-cooking, not to mention I wanted to keep the crust crisp, so I opted for putting these under the broiler until the cheese melted. The one problem is that I tend to forget about things when they’re in the broiler (there’s a very sad first attempt at creme brulee before I was given a little blow torch that serves as evidence of that), which was almost the case here, hence the black, burned spots on the cheese in the picture below.

But never mind the burned spots– the infusion of rosemary and lemon zest was just the switch-up I was looking for. The woodsy flavor of the rosemary and the bright lemon zest cut through the heavier flavors of cheese and tomato sauce. Our plates included sides of homemade fettucine, but that’s because we’re obsessed with homemade pasta in this household. Don’t let our culinary over-achieving attitudes stop you from throwing some dried pasta in a pot with jarred sauce before serving it along side of this chicken on a checkered table cloth in your own home. It’ll still be just as delicious.

  • 2 chicken breast halves, split in half to make them thinner then cut in half cross-wise for a total of 8 pieces
  • 2 large eggs, beaten with 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup of flour seasoned with 1 tsp coarse salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil plus more for frying
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 jar tomato basil sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Using one piece of chicken at a time, place the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper on a flat surface. Pound out the chicken with a meat pounder until the chicken is 1/4 inch thick.

Set up your mixing station as follows: beat the eggs in the milk in a shallow bowl. Next to the bowl, place a plate with the flour mixed together with the salt and pepper, followed by another plate topped with the panko crumbs and parmesan. In a blender, add the olive oil, rosemary, lemon zest, and garlic. Puree until the garlic and rosemary are chopped up finely. Drizzle this over the panko crumbs and mix together with a fork.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add about 1 tbsp of olive oil and the tbsp of butter. Dip each piece of chicken in the eggs, then in the flour (shaking off excess flour), and then completely submerge in the bread crumbs. It’s not so important to get an even coating of flour since the flour acts with the egg to make a glue, but make sure the chicken is evenly coated with the bread crumbs. Fry the chicken in the skillet, in batches of 4 pieces at a time to avoid over crowding. Fry for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adjusting heat as necessary to avoid burning.

Preheat your broiler. Place the chicken pieces in the bottom of a broiler-proof roasting pan. Pour the jar of sauce over all the pieces of chicken and sprinkle on the mozzarella. Broil for 3-4 minutes or until cheese has melted. Serve with pasta or maybe even polenta, as long as you have something to sop up any extra sauce.

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