Chicken parmesan, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. …
Chicken parmesan – breaded chicken cutlets topped with cheese and tomato sauce – is a beloved Italian dish. While it is not a dish one enters into for a quick and easy meal, in my opinion, this particular recipe has surpassed all others.
Now that I’ve built this thing up to impossible heights, let me offer a disclaimer. While this is a blog for beginners, this particular dish is both complicated and time-consuming. However, I think that if you go slowly and follow each instruction carefully, anyone (even Alan Flaten) can execute this dish.
What you’ll need:
– For 4 servings
- At least 16 ounces marinara sauce (I recommend my Granny Zeller’s marinara)
- Four boneless chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup table salt
- ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 cup olive oil (divided in half for sautéing cutlets)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine
- 3 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
For the chicken …
- Use a meat pounder, rubber mallet, rolling pin, (or even the smooth side of a can of soup) to pound the chicken breasts to an even 1/2-inch thickness. (Note: I like to layer the bottom and top of the chicken with cling wrap to cut down on meat splashes – see below.) Dissolve the 1/4 cup salt in a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Add the cutlets and seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Refrigerate until the cutlets are fully seasoned, 30 minutes. Line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels.
- Remove the cutlets and lay them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Cover with another triple layer of paper towels and press firmly to absorb the moisture. Allow the cutlets to dry for 10 minutes. Carefully peel the paper towels off the cutlets; sprinkle the cutlets with pepper to taste and set them aside.
- Place the bread crumbs in a shallow dish or pie plate. Spread the flour in a second shallow dish. Beat the eggs with the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a third shallow dish.
- Working one at a time, dredge the cutlets thoroughly in the flour, shaking off the excess. Using tongs, dip both sides of the cutlets in the egg mixture, taking care to coat them thoroughly and allowing the excess to drip back into the dish to ensure a very thin coating. Dip both sides of the cutlets in the bread crumbs, pressing the crumbs with your fingers to form an even, cohesive coat. Place the breaded cutlets in a single layer on a baking sheet and allow the coating to dry for about five minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 6 tablespoons (half of the 3/4 cup) olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes. Lay two cutlets gently in the skillet and cook until deep golden brown and crisp on the first side, gently pressing down on the cutlets with a wide spatula to help ensure even browning, about 2 1/2 minutes. Using tongs (or a fork), turn the cutlets, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook until the meat feels firm when pressed gently and the second side is deep golden brown and crisp, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Line a plate with paper towels and set the cutlets on top.
- Discard the oil in the skillet and wipe the skillet clean with a large wad of paper towel (careful to use tongs, as pan will be hot). Repeat step 5, using the remaining 6 tablespoons (or half of the 3/4 cup) olive oil and the now-clean skillet to cook the remaining cutlets. Again, lay cutlets on paper towels.
For the pasta …
- Simmer marinara (whichever recipe is to your liking) and keep it warm.
- Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Turn on the broiler.
- Add the 2 tsp. salt and spaghetti (or linguine) to the boiling water and stir to separate the noodles. (It is at this point that you want to start browning the first batch of cutlets).
- When all four of the cutlets are done, place them on baking sheet and top each cutlet with 3 tablespoons mozzarella and 1 tablespoon parmesan. Place the baking sheet under the broiler and broil until the cheeses melt and are spotty brown, about 2-3 minutes. (Be sure to check every 30 seconds, as the broiler heats FAST.)
- Drain the spaghetti. Transfer a portion of spaghetti on to each plate and top with marinara sauce. Place a chicken cutlet atop each plate of spaghetti. Serve immediately and pass more parmesan separately at the table.
- Serve with your favorite garlic bread or garlic knots.
[Source: The New Best Recipe, p. 335-338]