Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chicken Parm from a Polish Girl

Everyone who enjoys good, classic Italian food has had a delicious chicken parmigiana. Cheesy, saucey, breaded chicken over a nice bed of spaghetti -- true Italian comfort food at its finest.

Now, I am about 20% Italian by heritage. I also have a lot of Polish, German, and Scottish Welsh in me. The part of me that is Italian is considered the "cleaning Italian" or so my grandma says! That means that they have a few awesome recipes, but for the most part they are not big cooks. Instead, the house is just really clean. Like, all the time. And if you are the dirty granddaughter, you will be ridiculed!

Ok, so I'm exaggerating. But the moral of the story is that I never had a large repertoire of deliciously belly-busting Italian home-cooking recipes to indulge in when I just need some good comfort food. I usually only treated myself to such dishes when I went out to dinner in the North End, Boston's proverbial "Little Italy." And, I admit, I don't think my body could handle eating so lavishly every night.

But recently, I wanted it -- no NEEDED a plate of chicken parm. It was then just after Christmas, and Cory (the boyfriend!) showed me an awesome cookbook his sister got him as a gift. It is titled, "The $7 a Meal Cookbook," and as I was just flipping through to see what it had to offer, I stumbled upon the chicken section. Alas, a few pages in was a simple and lighter version of a traditional chicken parm! WHAT LUCK! I had to try it.

Now, I don't want to post the exact recipe for fear of copyright infringement. However, I did not really follow the recipe to the T all that much -- I made a lot of simple variations and eye-balled the amount of ingredients required. The important thing I took from this recipe was how to cook the chicken so that you have a crispy crust and a succulent meat.

Here's what you need:
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (as many as you need for the party you are serving)
Seasoned Italian Breadcrumbs
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Part-skim Mozzarella Cheese
Black Pepper
Spaghetti
Tomato Sauce (I actually used a spinach tomato Florentine sauce we had left over and it was a nice touch!)

Here's what you do:
If your chicken breasts are a bit on the thick side, place them between two pieces of wax paper after dredging with flour and gently pound the meat. The recipe says about 1/3 of an inch thick but mine turned out to be a little thicker in some places and actually helped prevent drying out the bird!
Whisk up an egg in a separate bowl and coat the chicken.
Mix together bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and pepper on a new piece of wax pepper. Coat the entire egg-bathed chicken pieces in a relatively generous amount of the breading.
Heat up a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet. Lightly brown each piece of chicken on both sides, but DO NOT cook the whole way through. You are probably talking about 2 to 3 minutes on each side for the first few pieces, and a minute to a minute and a half as the pan gets hotter. I'm talking about this level of golden brown:

Place the browned chicken cutlets into a greased baking dish.
Cover the chicken with a generous amount of your chosen tomato sauce and then top with the mozzarella cheese.
Pop this dish into a 350 degree oven and let it do it's thing for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly, the cheese melty, and the chicken cooked the whole way through.
While that is baking, boil up a pot of water and cook a box of spaghetti. I used whole wheat pasta to stick to the whole "a little lighter Italian cooking" theme.
Coat the pasta with any extra tomato sauce and serve the delicious chicken atop this.

As a Polish girl, I have to give myself a pat on the back. CHECK OUT THIS BEAUTY!


Now I will say, this doesn't have the gusto of those heavily breaded, crispy crunchy chicken parm plates you get at the restaurants. But, for a quick fix on that chicken parm craving, I think this will do just the trick! Give it a try!

How do you make chicken parm?! Would you make any variations to what you see here?

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