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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My Very Favorite Chicken Parmesan

Finally, one of the recipes I promised you!

Growing up, my mom made Chicken Parmesan all of the time, and I loved it. She used Italian breadcrumbs, grated Polly-O mozzarella and lots of Parmesan cheese from the green canister (ewww). Oh, and Francisco Rinaldi spaghetti sauce. She always served it with Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil (which I love) and a tossed salad, made with iceberg lettuce. Welcome to the 70s!

Now, as I said, I loved this dish. There was nothing wrong with my mother's Chicken Parm. It tastes great. So, when I read about a perfected Chicken Parm in the September, 1998 issue of Cook's Illustrated, I was skeptical. I didn't really see how this dish could get any better. I was proven wrong, and the CI version has become part of my repertoire. The panko coating is crisp, and the minimal use of sauce highlights the flavor of the chicken and cheese, and leaves plenty left over for the side of spaghetti that you should serve. Enjoy!

Chicken Parmesan
(adapted from Cook's Illustrated, September 1998)

3-4 cups tomato sauce (you can make your own using garlic, basil and a 28 oz. can of tomatoes, or use a high quality sauce like Emeril's Kicked Up Tomato)
1 large egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
2 large boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup grated mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat up sauce in a small saucepan (don't do this if you are preparing ahead).

Beat the egg in a large pie plate. Place bread crumbs in another pie plate and season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper and a dash of garlic powder.

Slice each breast horizontally to create two, thinner breasts. You will end up with four, total. I then pound these, to make them even thinner. (If there's one thing I hate, it's an overly thick hunk of chicken). Dip in beaten egg and then dredge in the breadcrumbs. Set on a cookie sheet.

Heat a large frying pan and THEN add the olive oil (remember the Frugal Gourmet's mantra: Hot Pan, Cold Oil. Food Won't Stick). Cook each piece of chicken for about three minutes per side. You want these to be nice and golden brown. When done, put the chicken on a cookie rack placed over a baking sheet. Sprinkle the cheeses over the chicken, and broil for about three minutes (until cheese is bubbly and has brown spots).

(NOTE: if you prepared the chicken ahead and need to bring it up to temperature, first put it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 6-7 minutes. Once it is warm, you can turn on the broiler and turn up the heat to get the cheese bubbly and brown.)

Remove the chicken from the oven. Serve topped with a dollop of heated sauce and next to a pile of spaghetti.

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