January 27, 2011
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As it happens, chicken parmesan is not from Parma, in the north of Italy, nor is it even from Italy. Rather it is the invention of Italian-American immigrants from Sicily who patterned it after a similar eggplant dish from their homeland. The origin of the name is the matter of some dispute; some think that it refers to parmesan cheese commonly used in its preparation but the more likely etymology is the Sicilian word parmiciana meaning louvers which the overlapped slices of eggplant resemble. In any case, today it is thoroughly American. Mine is a simple classic interpretation except that I used ground corn flakes in place of bread crumbs to make the dish gluten free. You could equally well simply forego the breading altogether and lightly pan fry the chicken in olive oil flavored with herbs. And while chicken parmesan is most often served over pasta, I have opted for gluten-free polenta.
- 1 large or 2 small chicken breasts, about 8 ounces total
- Salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp. all-purpose or white rice flour
- ½ cup corn flakes or ¼ cup bread crumbs
- ½ tsp. dried oregano
- ½ tsp. dried thyme
- 1 egg
- Olive oil
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella
- 2 Tbsp. each grated parmesan and pecorino Romano, or ¼ cup of either
If using 1 large chicken breast lay it on a cutting board halve it horizontally. Using a meat mallet pound the chicken to ¼-inch thickness. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper then dust with the flour, shaking off any excess.
Put the corn flakes, oregano, thyme, and a good grind of black pepper into a food processor and pulse to a fine meal. If using bread crumbs, just mix in the seasonings. Spread onto a plate. Beat the egg lightly in a shallow dish.
Preheat oven to 350°. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom. Dip a piece of chicken into the egg then place onto the corn flakes or bread crumbs and turn to coat evenly. Put into the hot pan. Repeat with remaining chicken. Cook for about 2 minutes per side reducing the heat if need be to prevent the coating from burning. When done, remove to a plate.
Spread a thin coating of marinara sauce in the bottom of a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold the chicken. Place the chicken pieces in the dish side by side. Coat with ½ of the remaining sauce. Cover with the mozzarella then the rest of the sauce. Top with the grated hard cheese. Bake in the hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starts to brown. Serve over spaghetti or slices of polenta lightly fried in olive oil.