One of my best friends in the world, Katie, was not always the biggest fan of chicken.
She would order the chicken caesar wrap at Chili’s, only to then pull out all of the chicken and eat the sandwich. A roast chicken was likely safe from her, as were chicken and dumplings, chicken salads… (You get the point).
But then college happened and while the two of us were roommates I decided to test out Katie’s chicken-eating limits (that and the fact that we agreed I was clearly cooking, she was cleaning).
I soon learned that if I tried to hide the chicken, say with a crispy breading, flavorful tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese, not only did Katie try the chicken, but she LOVED it.
Let me preface this next sentence by admitting that rarely would I ever gift someone a dinner entree but Katie’s dad is the exception. He had tried my chicken parmesan once years ago and loved it so much that Katie asked if I would make a large tray of it for her parents’ surprise anniversary party.
Her dad loved the gift and the party crowd left my tray spotless.
So you can understand the hint of cockiness to my response, when my boyfriend asks if my chicken parmesan was “good”. “Good? It turned a chicken-hater and was an anniversary gift. What do you think?” I respond.
Thin chicken breasts (figure 2 per person)
Breadcrumbs (Italian style or can add in dried oregano, basil and parsley)
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
thinly sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese
Tomato sauce (2 jars per pound of chicken)
Dry red wine
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If chicken breast need to be pounded thin, place breast under plastic wrap and use the back of pan or mallet to pound out. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts.
2. Set up your work station for the breading: The plate of thin chicken breasts first, second the large plate of flour, then a large bowl with the beaten eggs, then a large plate with the breadcrumbs, and finally a plate to put all of your nicely breaded chicken breasts.
3. The key step is this one. The egg will stick to wherever the flour, the breadcrumbs will stick to the egg. Therefore, make sure to completely submerge the chicken in the flour, pressing down and shaking off any excess. Then dip it in the egg several times to coat completely and then finally dip the chicken into the breadcrumbs, pressing down and shaking off any excess.
4. Over at the stove, place the plate of uncooked breaded chicken to your left and then a plate nearby with a piece of paper towel (to place the chicken after it comes off the pan).
5. Heat about two tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat (enough to cover the bottom of the pan).
6. Cook the chicken until brown and crispy, about 2 minutes or so on each side (this goes quickly so do not walk away!). And place cooked chicken breasts on plate with paper towel.
7. The pan that was used to cook the chicken will not be used for the tomato sauce. Deglaze the pan by adding in red wine, scraping up the bits from the bottom (if nonstick pan use silicone spatula to do this). Then add in the tomato sauce. Stirring around until incorporated. Let cook a couple minutes.
8. In a large rectangular casserole dish (glass or metal) coat the bottom with a little bit of the tomato sauce. Place the cooked, breaded chicken breasts in the dish, slightly edging over each other to fit them all in. Spoon some sauce over top and cover each breast with mozzarella cheese slices.
9. Bake in the oven about 5-10 minutes (until cheese melts). Serve with your favorite pasta and more sauce. (I served it with rigatoni pasta covered in pesto, with more tomato sauce on the side.)