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Practicing the basics: chicken parmesan

Chicken parmesan, served with roasted vegetables and fresh bread.

Chicken parmesan sounds much more complicated than it is: it’s breaded chicken, in a tomato sauce, with melted cheese on top. Super tasty, very filling, easy to make.

Our standard tomato sauce works great for this (though feel free to customize it to your liking, perhaps with some Italian herbs).

Suggested reading:

Serves up to four. Preparation time: about one hour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch tomato sauce
  • 1 lb. chicken breast, thin-sliced (or cut regular chicken breasts in half lengthwise)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup dried bread crumbs (Panko or Italian, either will work)
  • Frying oil (canola, sunflower or peanut work well)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese: Parmesan, Mozzarella or a blend

Make the tomato sauce. Reduce to simmer and keep it there while you assemble and fry the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a deep frying pan, pour in enough oil to make a layer 1/2 inch deep. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches about 375 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature. If you drop a few bread crumbs into the oil and they immediately start to simmer, the oil is at the right temperature.

In three bowls next to each other, place the flour, the beaten egg, and the bread crumbs.

A basic breading station. From right to left: flour, egg, panko bread crumbs.

Thoroughly pat dry the chicken cutlets. This is very important! If there is liquid on the outside, the breading will have difficulty sticking to the chicken.

One at a time, dip the chicken cutlets into the flour (covering the entire outside, but shake off any excess), then the egg (let any extra drop off), then the bread crumbs (coating thoroughly). Place them on a tray or plate while you repeat for the rest of the cutlets.

Carefully and gently place a cutlet into the oil. Fry on one side until evenly brown (about 3 minutes), then gently flip it over and fry the other side until it is brown too. You can do more than one at the same time, but don’t let them touch — they will stick together as they cook, and prying them apart will tear off some of the breading. Fry in multiple batches if necessary. Resist the urge to lift them up to check the underside, because moving them around will dislodge the breading. You’ll know it’s brown enough underneath when the sides are visibly browned.

When fully browned, lift the cutlets out of the oil, allow excess oil to drip off, and place them on a paper-towel-lined plate or baking sheet. The paper towels will absorb any remaining oil.

Ladle enough of the tomato sauce into a 9×13-inch, deep baking pan to make a layer of 1/4 to 1/2 inch over the entire bottom. If you’re making a smaller batch, you can use a smaller baking pan.

Place the chicken cutlets on top of the tomato sauce in the pan.

Ladle another thin layer of tomato sauce on top of the chicken cutlets, then sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.

Place the pan in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

Remove from the oven, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Hints and suggestions:

  • Brine the chicken in advance. Just remember to thoroughly pat it dry before breading it!
  • Mix in some seasonings with the bread crumbs.
  • Take care when disposing of the oil after frying the chicken. DO NOT pour it down the sink! The best way to dispose of it (after it cools) is to pour it into an old glass bottle or jar, screw on the lid, and drop it in the garbage.
  • When breading the chicken, some people prefer to have one “dry hand” that handles the cutlets up until they are placed in the egg, and a “wet hand” that handles them in the egg and then in the bread crumbs. The wet hand is going to get pretty coated with egg and bread crumbs, so doing this makes sure you don’t end up with bits of egg and bread crumb in the flour.