Mar 11, 2013

Chicken Parmigiana

Chicken Parmigiana is a Southern Italian dish consisting of breaded chicken smothered in tomato sauce and cheese. It is delicious, of course, but it kind of gets a bad rap from busy cooks who feel it is too messy and time consuming to make.  It can definitely be messy and time consuming - no argument there, but with a little organization it is quite easy and well worth a little extra effort.

I like to make my own bread crumbs for this dish. You can add any kind of herb you want and it really takes the dish to a new level.  Of course, if you don't have that kind of time you can always use store bought Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs. In addition to homemade bread crumbs, I also like to use my Red Sauce recipe. Typically, I will make the red sauce to use with spaghetti and meatballs and save the leftovers for Chicken Parm. The sauce freezes well too, so it's nice to set 3-4 cups aside for when you want to make this. Once again, you can use your favorite jarred sauce for this to save time.

Homemade Dried Bread Crumbs - Ingredients
3-4 slices Italian Bread
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 - 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Start with 3-4 slices of day old Italian Bread. I leave the crusts on, but you can cut them off if you prefer. I used this to coat 3 large chicken breasts. If you are making more, be sure to use more bread slices accordingly

Cut it into strips...

Place bread strips into a food processor or a blender...

and blend until finely chopped. Remove from blender and spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer

Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1 - 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning and then drizzle with olive oil. I like to drizzle in a zig zag fashion from one end of the tray to the other. Then use a spoon to mix it well. Be sure to coat all the bread crumbs with seasoning and oil and spread them out into a single layer again.  Bake in a preheated 300 degree F. oven for about 20 mins.

While the bread crumbs are baking, you can start to assemble what you need for coating the chicken. I like to assemble all my ingredients and make an assembly line to coat the chicken and then put it right into the prepared baking dish.

Chicken Parmigiana Ingredients
2 lbs chicken breasts
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Homemade Bread Crumbs or 
1 1/2 cups store bought Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
3-4 slices Mozzarella Cheese
3-4 cups Red Sauce
or your favorite jarred marinara sauce

Prepare your chicken by laying it on a cutting board with the bottom side up...

Using your hands, open the breast up where both sides come together, so it lays more flat...

sorry for the blurry photos - my old eyes fail me sometimes ;)
Continue to spread it apart until it is all the way open, and looks like a heart shape... sort of

Now turn the chicken over, so the top side is up, and flatten the largest side with the palm of your hand. You don't want to mutilate it, just flatten it so it will cook evenly. Do this for each piece of chicken you are breading.

Set up your assembly line like so....

Measure out 1/3 cup flour into one dish (paper plates work well for this too and make for an easier clean-up), 2 eggs slightly beaten into the next dish, and your home made bread crumbs into the last dish (or 1.5 cups store bought bread crumbs). Spray your baking tray with cooking spray and put that next to the bread crumbs. I've found that this helps to keep things clean and makes quick work of breading the chicken.

Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dip it into the flour, being sure to coat both sides well...

The flour helps the egg stick to the chicken. Then dip that same piece of chicken into the egg. Again, coat both sides well...

Finish by dipping that same piece of chicken into the bread crumbs, coating both sides well. I like to press down on the crumbs to ensure they get a good stick.  Then place that piece of chicken into the baking dish and repeat with remaining chicken pieces until all are coated and ready to go in the oven. I use a 13x9" baking dish. Be sure to discard any unused flour, egg, and bread crumbs.

You can make this ahead of time up to this point and freeze the chicken for later use.  Sometimes I like to double the recipe and put some in the freezer for the next time, but I prefer to eat it fresh for the best flavor and texture.

If I am making this to freeze, I put the chicken on a parchment lined baking sheet and then put in the freezer for about an hour or two. Then I remove from the freezer and put in a Ziploc freezer bag to store and save space in my freezer. This will keep in your freezer for a couple months and you can bake as normal when ready to use.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Place baking dish in oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Next, pour sauce over chicken evenly and continue baking for 10 minutes more or until an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees F. when inserted into thickest part of chicken. Place a slice of cheese on top of each piece of chicken and bake until melted. Serve with a salad or some spaghetti noodles and enjoy!

This recipe is inspired by Chicken Parmigiana

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