Chicken Parmesan, next to lasagna, is to me, the quintessential Italian comfort food. Its not too heavy, not too unhealthy, and can work as a nice dinner or even as a hero/sub/hoagie/whatever you call it in your part of the world.
I had my doubts in writing this post that Chicken/Veal Parmesan was in any way, actually Italian. Surprisingly, it seems that yes, at one point, there was an authentically Italian version…it just had no cheese, tomato, or anything that would look familiar to us today beyond the meat. But history aside, this is still delicious and is another household favorite of mine that can surprise a lot of people, because, like burgers, I feel that most people are accustomed to subpar versions of this dish. I suppose that’s the price you pay for popularity.
For me, the key is to use a really flavorful breading on the meat, frying it as little as possible in both butter and a tasty olive oil. Then, you dress this up with some strong Italian flavors (e.g. fresh chopped basil, a small squeeze of lemon, freshly grated parmesan [as in Parmigiano-Reggiano] cheese) and you’ll have a dinner that, while not authentically Italian, will seem a lot more authentic in the flavors. Chicken Parmesan doesn’t have to be a fried hockey puck with dismal sauce and cheese on top. So open up a bottle of Chianti and get cooking–I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised with the results.
- 1-1.5 lbs chicken/veal (breast if chicken, scallopini if veal)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 stick of butter
- 1-2 eggs
- 1.25 cups of my Italian-flavored bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Shredded Mozarrella cheese
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- juice of half a lemon
- tomato sauce/stewed roma/plum tomatoes
- 3-5 large leaves of fresh basil
- a little bit of fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
- Optional: leaves from 3-4 sprigs of fresh oregano
Crack the eggs and whisk in a small bowl.
In a larger bowl, mix the Italian-flavored bread crumbs with your freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Dice your fresh herbs finely, slice your lemon, and set these aside for later.
Preheat the oven to bake at 350? F.
Trim your meat and make thin pieces. Either hammer it thinner with a meat mallet or butterfly/slice it thinly. You want to fry these guys through quick and easy, so thick pieces are not welcome here. Then, simply dip your meat in egg and dredge in the bread crumb mixture. Don’t sell this breading short–coat all pieces well!
Heat up some olive oil and a knob of butter in a frying pan on medium/high heat. Fry your breaded chicken pieces, flipping once or twice to prevent burning. Within about 10 minutes time (depends on thickness, and for veal, you want to spend about half as much time in the frying pan!), take the meat out of the frying pan and set aside in a baking/foil pan.
Once all of the cooked meat is set in your pan, cover each piece with a spoonful of tomato sauce. You’re welcome to use premade sauce or you can briefly (like 10-15 minutes) fry and simmer some minced garlic along with some freshly chopped tomatoes–whichever floats your boat. Either way, once spread out on the meat, squeeze a little bit of lemon juice on top of each piece. The lemon won’t be overpowering, but it will really help to liven things up. Now, sprinkle the diced fresh herbs on top of each–the basil will really add a nice, fresh flavor.
Finally, grate up a good amount of Parmesan cheese and then cover with shredded mozarella cheese. Mozzarella melts down easier than a hard cheese like parmesan, so you want it on top so that it will melt and seal the herby, lemony goodness into the sauce. Transfer the meat to the oven for 10 minutes.
Once time is up, remove from the oven and plate. I usually serve this with roasted Italian-style potatoes, but pasta always works well. Enjoy!