Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

One of the more popular meals around here lately has been Chicken Parmesan. We use the recipe off of America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking (a most fascinating use of the DS, even if the voice recognition on it is terrible - the recipes so far have been generally good, if rather basic). I'm sure you can find similar recipes elsewhere online, but for convenience here is the recipe and my annotations.

- 3 oz mozzarella cheese (I have no way to measure cheese by ounces. I just get about 1-1 1/2 shredded.)
- 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese (I use about... 1/2 cup shredded)
- 1 c. flour (you don't really need that much. I got by with half a cup or so tonight.)
- 2 large eggs
- 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs (you definitely don't need that much. I use store bought bread crumbs because I'm lazy, and you probably only need about 1 1/2 cups max. I started by putting about 3/4 cup in a dish and adding more as needed, because otherwise you end up with tons of bread crumbs that are contaminated with raw chicken.)
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 6-8 oz each (I used 3 of the ones from Costco tonight, but I've done it with 4 as well; it's way easier if you think ahead and defrost them in the fridge for a day)
- Salt
- Pepper
- 3/4 c vegetable oil
- 1 cup tomato sauce (I use one of the small cans)

1. Grate the cheeses if you have not already done so. This recipe claims you will have 3/4 c shredded mozzarella and 1/4 c Parmesan, but we like things extra cheesy around here so feel free to up the amounts if you so desire.

2. Preheat oven to 450 F.

3. Put the flour in a shallow dish, beat the eggs in a second shallow dish, and put the bread crumbs in a third shallow dish. Line them up all pretty.

1. Prepare the chicken by trimming the fat and putting each piece between two lengths of plastic wrap or in a Ziploc bag. Pound each piece flat with a meat tenderizer (or hammer, or some similar object suitable for pounding) until it is about 1/2 inch thick. As a side note, the chicken needs to be defrosted when you do this.

2. If you are using Costco chicken or other unusually large pieces of chicken, cut the flattened chicken breast in half to make it a more manageable size. Ours generally turn out to be about 3 inches by 4 inches, roughly, though they are almost always funky shapes with weird bits of chicken poking out at strange angles.

3. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. (Try not to think about how difficult it is to season raw meat without getting raw meat juice on your salt/pepper shakers...)

4. Working with one piece at a time, dredge the chicken through the flour, then through the egg (make sure to let all the extra drip off), then in the bread crumbs. (The chicken post-flour, pre-egg is the least gross, IMHO.)

5. Lay each breaded piece of chicken on a dry plate. If you cut each piece in half like I did, you will have 6-8 pieces now (depending on how many chicken breasts you started with).

6. Now heat up the 3/4 c oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet (medium/medium-high heat - I find on my stove that medium heat is just about perfect). While it's heating up, line a plate or something with paper towels so you have somewhere to drain the chicken, and get out a rimmed baking sheet (pick one with edges unless you like scraping burnt cheese off the bottom of your oven).

7. When the oil is hot (i.e. when it starts to smoke a little bit), put two pieces of breaded chicken in and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 4-6 min. If your oil is too hot, you may notice that the breading begins to burn a little if you don't keep a careful eye on it. If it's not hot enough, it won't do anything when you put in the chicken, and you may find yourself cringing at the thought of it soaking up all that oil... If your oil is just right, it will sizzle and pop upon touching the chicken, but not out of control, and your chicken will cook 2-3 min on each side and look deliciously perfect. (It took me several tries to get it right; in fact, this is the first time I really felt like I did it without any problems.)

8. Drain each piece of fried chicken briefly on paper towels, then transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat step 7-8 until all chicken is cooked and drained.

9. Spoon some tomato sauce over each chicken breast, then put some Parmesan cheese on each one, then put mozzarella cheese on each one. Forget the amounts that the recipes says, just put as much as you think looks good.

10. Bake the chicken until the cheese has melted and browned, 5-10 minutes.

11. Enjoy! No picture sadly, but we ate it up too fast to even think about that. And now we have lovely leftovers for tomorrow and maybe the day after too!

It does take a fair bit of preparation and work to make this, but it is seriously tasty. And it's a great introduction to breading too, because even if you mess up some it still tastes decent. Best of all, it's one of the few meals my husband enjoys helping with. :) I think there's something rather manly about the meat tenderizer for him.

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