Lately I’ve been on an eat-healthier-workout-more kick and having embarked on a great many of these phases over the past few years, I can tell you that I don’t know exactly what “works” but I do know what doesn’t work for me: eating “diet” food. No matter how much low-fat this, fat-free that I try to buy, it just doesn’t get eaten. Or it gets eaten but it’s unsatisfying and three days later I”m all like “pass the triple creme brie please…and does anyone else want French fries?”
Don’t pretend you haven’t done the same thing.
That’s where this dish comes in. Chicken Parmigiana is easily one of my favorite meals, as cliche as that may well be, but it has to be good chicken parmigiana or else it’s hardly worth the calories. There are a lot of chicken parm recipes floating around online – not to mention in the stacks of cookbooks some of you probably have at home.
Nonetheless, I think mine is great so here are the my tips on how to make perfect chicken parm:
- Use real mozzarella cheese. Buy a container of fresh mozzarella cheese from Whole Foods or your local market. It’s going to cost you rougly $4.00-6.00 but I promise, it will make all the difference in the world for your finished dish.
- Use real olive oil to coat your pan. And be generous with it. I have tried this recipe with both PAM spray and genuine olive oil, the former to cut down on calories and fat. What I’ve found is that if you opt for the spray, your breading will stick to the bottom of the pan and you’ll be left with dry chicken and a glob of burned breadcrumbs. And if you don’t have a dishwasher, that’s clearly a real tragedy.
- Use whole wheat bread crumbs. If you like Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs, add your own basil, oregano, etc. but I find whole wheat breadcrumbs to be the tastiest – and it doesn’t hurt that you’re getting a little extra fiber too.
- 1 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought)
- 1 pound (16 ounces) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin with a meat mallet or heavy-bottomed frying pan
- 1 egg
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup of shredded cheese)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce on the bottom of a glass or enameled cast iron baking dish. Set aside.
- Place the flour in a shallow bowl or platter and in a wide bowl, beat the egg whites with a fork until frothy - as soon as it looks like there are soap bubbles in the egg whites, you're done. In a small bowl, mix the Parmesan cheese and the whole wheat bread crumbs. Arrange the three dishes on the counter or cooking surface, assembly-line style.
- Heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium-high flame in a large skillet. While the oil is heating up, lightly dredge [aka: drag] both sides of the chicken cutlets in the flour, then the egg [let any excess drip off before proceeding] and finally in the bread crumbs.
- When the oil is nice and hot add the chicken and fry for 4-6 minutes on each side [cook time will depend on how thick they are] until pieces are golden and crusty, turning once. Place chicken in the baking dish atop the marinara sauce.
- Top the chicken with the remaining cup of marinara sauce and top with the mozzarella cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and let bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and let bake for an additional 5-8 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly and chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Serve with your favorite pasta or fresh, wilted spinach.