Chicken Parmesan

chicken parmThe origins of this popular Italian-American dish are somewhat hazy. Some claim that it is an adaptation of the eggplant preparation known as Parmiciana di Milinciani in Sicily or Parmiciana di Melanzane in Campania, the region around Naples. Meaning literally Shutters of Eggplant the name refers to the way the slices of eggplant are overlapped. The alternate name, Melanzane Parmigiana, literally Eggplant in the Style of Parma, a city in the north of Italy, is said to be so called because it incorporates Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The problem with this explanation is that the breading and pan frying of chicken or veal cutlets is more typical of the Alpine regions than of southern Italy, the Austrian Wienerschnitzel being a good example. Meat preparation similar to schnitzel is typical of Bologna, the capital of the region that includes Parma, so it seems likely that Chicken Parmigiania really refers to a Bolognese dish. This version, which I adapted from FoodNetwork.com, is a hybrid of the two with the chicken cutlets being prepared in the Bolognese style but finished with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese in the Neapolitan manner. I think it is appropriate to call it authentically American.

Ingredients

 

Olive oil

as needed, see Method

as needed, see Method

Onion, chopped (1 small)

4 ounces

125 grams

Garlic cloves, chopped

2

2

Bay leaves

2

2

Black olives, pitted and chopped (about eight)

1 ounce

30 grams

Canned diced tomatoes (1 can)

28 ounces

794 grams

Dry red wine

½ cup

125 milliliters

Basil leaves, dried

1 teaspoon

5 milliliters

Thyme leaves, dried

1 teaspoon

5 milliliters

Oregano leaves, dried

1 teaspoon

5 milliliters

Salt and pepper

to taste

to taste

Sugar

½ teaspoon

2½ milliliters

Chicken breast, boneless and skinless

12 ounces

340 grams

Flour

¼ cup

30 grams

Eggs

1 large

1 large

Water

½ cup

125 milliliters

Dried bread crumbs

½ cup

60 grams

Mozzarella, shredded

4 ounces

115 grams

Parmesan, grated

2 tablespoons

30 milliliters

Extra virgin olive oil

as needed, see Method

as needed, see Method

Method

Film a saucepan with olive oil and place over medium heat. Sweat the onions, garlic, and bay leaves until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the olives, tomatoes, and herbs then season with salt pepper, and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 35F (180°C). Place the chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap and, with a meat mallet, pound to an even ½-inch (1 cm) thickness. Put the flour onto a plate and season with salt and pepper. Beat the egg and water until frothy and pour into a shallow bowl. Finally spread the bread crumbs onto a plate.

chicken parm 1Pour ⅛ inch (3 mm) of olive oil into a skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly dredge the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, dip them in the egg wash to coat completely, coat with the bread crumbs. Place in the hot skillet and fry for about 4 minutes on each side until golden and crusty.

Ladle a thin layer of tomato sauce into a lightly oiled baking dish and arrange the chicken onto top. Cover with more of the tomato sauce, the mozzarella, and the parmesan. Drizzle with a bit of the extra virgin olive oil and bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Serve hot over pasta or polenta.

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2 responses to “Chicken Parmesan

  1. Karen November 15, 2011 at 07:28

    Hi Leo, I like your looking into the origins of the recipe. The addition of the olives sounds good.

  2. Wizard November 20, 2011 at 13:34

    Great. Make me hungry. I think I will look for healthy chicken recipes.

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