Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

I'm not sure what possessed me to make chicken parmesan tonight, but I'm certainly glad I did! I had three chicken breasts defrosted, and it just sounded like the right thing to try. This is my own recipe, created after reading a variety of recipes online and deciding that I didn't really like any of them. Feel free to try it out, and add your own touches to make it yours!

Ingredients, sauce:
* 2 large cloves garlic, minced
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 cans crushed or diced tomatoes
* 1/4 cup red wine
* 2 bay leaves
* spices to taste

Ingredients, chicken parm:
* 3 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

* approximately 1 cup bread crumbs
* 2 eggs, scrambled with a touch of milk or cream
* olive oil for cooking in
* salt and pepper to taste
* one slice mozzarella (or other) cheese per piece of chicken
* 2 cups shredded parmesan

Method:
Make your sauce first, as it will need time to reduce. In a large sauce pan, pour about a tablespoon of olive oil and your chopped onion. Saute on medium high heat until the onions are just starting to clarify, but before they become mushy. Add the wine and garlic, stir well, and saute another few moments. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Spice to taste; I use a sprinkle of salt and pepper and nothing else.  Lower the heat to allow the sauce to simmer but not boil. Stir occasionally as you allow the sauce to reduce.

Take your chicken breasts and slide them into a plastic baggie, or wrap in saran wrap, or put between two pieces of wax paper. Using a meat hammer or rolling pin (or even an empty wine bottle), pound each chicken breast until it is about a half inch thick. Try to stop before the breasts fall apart, but for flavor's sake it's better to go a bit long than a bit short. Set the breasts aside on a plate while you prepare the breading. While you are doing all that, heat another tablespoon or two of olive oil in a cast iron or other good quality fry pan.

Pour the breadcrumbs into a large flat container (I usually use a straight edged pie plate) and add salt and pepper to taste. Some people also like to add oregano, but I didn't this time. Mix well with a fork. Cut the chicken into serving size pieces (about the size of your palm) and dip each piece into the egg mixture. Lift it and allow it to drip and then dip it into the bread crumbs, flipping to coat well on both (all) sides. Place the chicken into the fry pan and allow to cook about two to three minutes per side (you want your chicken mostly cooked, but NOT completely!). Preheat your oven to 375F.

As you're browning the first batch of breaded chicken, check your sauce. It is probably still very liquid, which is fine. Into the bottom of a casserole dish or high sided baking pan, pour some of the liquid. You don't want to drown your chicken, but it should cover the bottom of the pan just barely.

As the chicken pieces are cooked, place them into a single layer in the casserole dish. Once all the chicken is in the dish, pour the rest of the sauce over the top of the chicken, being sure to cover all of it. On top of the sauce, add a slice of mozzarella (I didn't have mozza so I used provolone, and it was DELISH). On top of the entire thing, sprinkle your parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is just beginning to brown and bubble.

I served this dish with a mix of jasmine rice and orzo, which I cooked separately and then mixed together with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt, and a side salad. I must say, I'm very pleased with the results. The chicken was tender enough to cut with a fork (easily), the sauce was very tomato-ey and flavorful without being too tart or watery. My family gave me feedback that included the phrases, "restaurant quality" and "gourmet." Yay for me!
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