Chicken parmigiana, much like pizza, is a bit more difficult to make than you might think. Sure, there’s plenty of crappy chicken parm out there, made with processed frozen chicken cutlets, bad sauce and cheap cheese. But to make a really fantastic, mind-blowing chicken parm, that’s a real skill…one that I’ve honed over my many bachelor years. So when it was time to cook something that would impress the hell out of the woman who is now my wife, I have no doubt that is was my chicken parm that won her over.
The key to this recipe is simple: don’t skimp on the quality ingredients. And my recipe makes a lot. Trust me: you will want leftovers.
6 Chicken breasts, the best quality you can get your hands on
Alz Italian bread crumb seasoning (see recipe below)
olive oil for frying
Alz “Don’t Call It Gravy” tomato sauce (see recipe below)
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Thaw the chicken breasts. Lay them flat on a cutting board, and you’ll see where the chicken tender is on the side of the breast. Cut the tender off and set aside, leaving the breast which is thinner at one end and thicker at the other. Slice the breast in half lengthwise at the thicker end, keeping the knife level, so that you wind up with 2 pieces of breast meat that are the same thickness, but one will be a longer piece (the bottom) and one about half its size (the top part you sliced off.) Do this with all the breasts.
By slicing the breasts lengthwise into evenly thick pieces, there is no need to pound the hell out of the chicken breasts.
Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan. Next to the pan, set up two bowls: one with Alz Italian bread crumb mix and in the other: crack the eggs and whisk them.
Now it’s your standard breading procedure: chicken meat in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs, coating well. Shake off the excess and place carefully in the pan of olive oil when the oil comes to temperature for frying.
Fry the chicken in the oil until golden brown. You want it cooked all the way through, but not overcooked. Place fried chicken pieces on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Do this with all the chicken. The fried chicken at this point is delicious all by itself: chop and place in a salad, or make a chicken sandwich. My daughter gets these instead of store-bought chicken tenders, and she loves them.
Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Ladle out enough sauce to create a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the sheet. Place fried chicken breasts on top of the sauce. Cover the breasts with more sauce, then place pieces of sliced fresh mozzarella on top. Sprinkle top with a little oregano.
Place the baking sheet in a pre-heated 350 degree oven and bake until the cheese has melted and just starts to brown. Serve with pasta.
ALZ “DON’T CALL IT GRAVY” TOMATO SAUCE
It’s not hard to make a good tomato sauce. But it takes a little work to make an amazing tomato sauce. Honed from a recipe handed down by a friend-of-a-friend’s Italian grandma, it is one very important part in two of my favorite Italian comfort food recipes: my (meat)balls…and my kick-ass chicken parmigiana recipe.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
10 cups ground and peeled tomatoes…or 3 cans (28 oz) tomatoes (real San Marzanos preferred)
2 teaspoons each: dried oregano, basil and parsley
3/4 teaspoon each anise seed and fennel seed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 small can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
Heat olive oil in a large pot and add onions. Cook until onions are translucent, then add garlic. Stir for 10 seconds.
Add tomatoes and cook until orange foam disappears, stirring frequently.
Add oregano, basil, parsley, anise seed, fennel seed, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Add tomato paste, stirring well. Let sauce just come to a boil (which helps the paste thicken the sauce), then reduce to a simmer, and cook uncovered for at least an hour, stirring constantly, until sauce reaches desired consistency.
ALZ ITALIAN BREAD CRUMB SEASONING
If I can’t make my own breadcrumbs from old bread, I’m OK with buying store-bought breadcrumbs. But I always buy them plain, and then season them myself. And for this recipe, I don’t use Panko.
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Combine all ingredients well.