Monday, September 14, 2009

Chicken Parmesan

Traditionally, Chicken Parm is pan-fried. This puts a lot of people off of it because of the mess and extra fat content that comes with it. However, it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible to bake a delicious and juicy Chicken Parm that has very little mess and only a fraction of the fat.

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, "enhanced" or brined*
  • 1 1/2 cups course seasoned bread crumbs (homemade or store bought)
  • 1/2 cup ground good Parmesan cheese, with the rind cut off and reserved
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup flour
  • kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely minced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced fine
  • 1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from brine, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels (or thaw and dry enhanced chicken breasts). Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Mix the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese in a pie pan or other wide, shallow dish. Mix the eggs and water in another similar dish. Put the flour in one more dish. Dredge a chicken breast in the flour, shaking off any excess. Coat with the egg mixture and then move to the bread crumbs, coating all sides and pushing firmly to adhere. Put the breaded chicken on the baking sheet and repeat with the other pieces. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and a heavy pinch of kosher salt. Sweat for 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent (do not brown them, if they start to sizzle or jump around, turn the heat down). Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomato sauce, chili flake, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese rind. Simmer very gently over low heat until the chicken has baked for 20 minutes. When there are 5 minutes left, remove the rind and discard. Add the basil and gently simmer for the remaining baking time.

Remove the chickens from the oven. Place a thin layer of sauce over each one (2-4 tablespoons, as you like it). Put 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese on top of each one and return the baking sheet to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the chickens have an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Serve with pasta marinara and garlic toast.

*Enhanced chicken breasts have been injected with a salt solution that makes them juicier and more tender. They are usually sold individually quick frozen (IQF) in bags labeled "Chicken enhanced with a solution..." or something like that. If you don't have (or want to buy) enhanced chicken, you can brine your own (which will probably taste better anyway, but takes more time). Mix 12 ounces of pickling salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 quarts of water in a 2 gallon plastic tub (or clean picnic cooler). Whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved and add the chicken breasts. Brine for 6-12 hours in the refrigerator, or add a pound of ice in a tightly sealed zipper bag if doing in a cooler (changing the bags every 4 hours or whenever it melts, making sure the ice water doesn't leak and dilute the brine). Back to ingredients

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