Just look at this money shot. Patty is usually my stunt woman when it comes to holding food mid air for action shots. She was too busy to assist with this one so how did I pull this off? One hand on the camera using auto focus, while the other contorted around holding a spatula. I know, I’ve got mad skills.
Patty made me chicken parmesan on our fourth date on a cold January night, almost three years ago. It was the first meal she ever cooked for me. EVER. Wild right? Now, I know what you’re thinking. Bold move making Shawn, the world famous food blogger, chicken parm on date number four. If only she knew. If only I KNEW. Kitchen Swagger wasn’t even a thought at that point. Dinner was delicious, she won me over.
With winter just around the corner, it’s time to pull out those warm hearty Italian dishes. Chicken parmesan is one of those recipes that’s difficult to make because everyone knows how good chicken parmesan should taste. Just like the national anthem. You’ve heard it 10,000,000 times and when someone butchers it? Ouch.
Every time I go to the North End in Boston (Italian food paradise), I have the same internal struggle. I tell myself I’m going to branch out and not get chicken parmesan because I always get it. Then I cave and end up getting chicken parmesan because nothing compares (except maybe veal parmesan). So, after all these years I’ve paid very close attention to what makes the perfect chicken parmesan.
A few pointers.
Chicken parmesan should be made with thinly sliced chicken. You’ll notice nice Italian restaurants always serve large, thinly sliced servings of chicken parmesan. If your chicken is thicker than half an inch, the crispy crust is lost, it’s too chewy, and there’s too much chicken in each bite (weirdly).
Always mix parmesan cheese in with the breading. They don’t call it chicken parmesan for nothing. Top with extra parmesan cheese and plenty of shredded or fresh mozzarella cheese (or both). You want a solid layer of melted cheese to nearly cover each piece of crispy chicken.
Always sauté the chicken in olive oil. No substitutes here. Olive oil will add tremendous flavor to the crust and will help give your chicken parm that much desired crispy crunch. Nothing compares.
I managed to make this recipe (of four servings) in one 12 inch cast iron skillet. First, I sauté the chicken in olive oil, and then use the same cast iron skillet for baking. One less dish to clean up in an already dish heavy recipe. Cast iron wins again!
- 2 large chicken breasts, halved lengthwise (to make 4 slices)
- 1½ cups breadcrumbs
- 1 cup, plus 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon water
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1½ cups tomato sauce
- 8 ounce fresh mozzarella ball, sliced (or shredded)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Cut each piece of chicken in half lengthwise to form 4 thin slices. Using a rolling pin, flatten chicken to under half an inch by firmly hitting.
- Combine bread crumbs, ½ cup of parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs on a plate and set aside. In a shallow bowl, whisk water and eggs and set aside. Spread the flour on a plate and set aside.
- Coat the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess. Dip in egg mixture and then coat in bread crumbs, making sure the crumbs adhere and chicken is fully coated.
- Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken slices two at time and sauté until golden, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove all 4 slices and set on a plate.
- Add ½ a cup of tomato sauce to the bottom of the cast iron skillet. Return all four pieces of chicken to the cast iron skillet and arrange with the least amount of overlap possible.
- Cover with remaining sauce, remaining parmesan cheese, and top each piece of chicken with two slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with basil and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Serve Immediately with a side of pasta if desired.