Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chicken Parmesan: You'll Never Know it Wasn't Fried

 I'd like to start by saying that I love Chicken Parmesan.  But I hate frying food.  I also hate feeling guilty after I eat a meal.  I modified the traditional recipe by baking the chicken instead of frying. Also, instead of covering the chicken with a ton of cheese, I simply put a small slice of buffalo mozzarella over each piece.  Lastly, I made the sauce too instead of buying the bottled variety. Granted, I am not terribly opposed to bottled sauces(if they're of a good quality), but they're really overpriced sometimes, and making your own is simple- not to mention, delicious and YOU control what's going into them.

 For the chicken:
4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 -2 tsp. salt
mister with neutral flavored oil (like canola) or butter flavor cooking spray
4  1/4" slices fresh buffalo mozzarella
1 tbsp fresh chopped basil for garnish

For the sauce:
1 onion (very finely diced)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh basil (chopped)
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried nutmeg (I know it sounds weird but it works- trust me)
2 tbsp. ketchup
1 cup whole cherry tomatoes

The first thing to do is pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  For this particular recipe, I decided not to butterfly the chicken breasts because I thought they'd be too thin.  Instead, I placed the chicken breast on a cutting board (I use one of those thin overlays just for meat) and placed a piece of plastic wrap over the top. Gently pound out the breast until you have a pretty even piece.  Repeat until you've done this to the four pieces.  Season each piece of chicken with salt.  Now we're ready to create the breading station.  In three separate pans, add the flour, bread crumbs, and beaten egg.  Before diving into the breading process, have your baking sheet ready to go.  For this particular dish, I lined my cookie sheet with a silicone mat- if you don't have a silicone mat, then use parchment paper.  This step is important because, although most cookie sheets are non-stick, the breading tends to stick anyways.  Using parchment or a silicone mat will prevent this from happening this is also true since we're not using a ton of oil or butter for the baking.  Begin breading the chicken by dredging the chicken into the flour, then the egg, then the panko bread crumbs.  I used to think the flour part was unnecessary until I tried it.  This step really helps the crumbs adhere to the chicken, creating a nice even crust.  Transfer the chicken to the baking sheet.  Now spray each chicken on both sides with the cooking spray or the oil mister.  Make sure you have a fair amount before putting the chicken in the oven.  Bake for about 8 minutes on each side.  Flipping the breasts, once to make sure all the sides are crunchy.

While the chicken cooks, let’s begin making the sauce.  Begin dicing your onion and garlic into the smallest pieces possible.  Add the olive oil to a pan and turn up the heat to medium high.  Add the onions and garlic and let them cook for about 5 minutes.  Next open the cans of crush tomatoes, and the tomato sauce and transfer to the pan. Add the ketchup next, stirring the sauce to blend everything well.  Now let’s start adding the seasonings: nutmeg, salt, oregano, and chopped up basil. Add the cherry tomatoes. Stir again and let the sauce simmer on low heat until the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken from the oven and ladle the sauce over each piece.  Top with the slice of buffalo mozzarella and bake for another five minutes.

Garnish with some freshly chopped basil.  I served this with grilled zucchini that was simply seasoned with sea salt and lots of freshly cracked pepper- grilled in a little olive oil.

P.S. - Just look at how beautiful those little cherry tomatoes look in the sauce... aren't they cute?

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