Crispy Chicken Parmigiana with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Crispy. Oozy. Spicy. Mmmm...
crispy + oozy + spicy = Mmm…

Confession: I’m a sucker for chicken parmigiana. The hearty dish is high on my list of comfort foods, along with ribs, mac ‘n cheese, and apple pie. It just screams “homey” and always makes me feel nice and toasty with each bite. Plus, I love that it’s the type of food that looks better when it’s messy. I’ve been working for a while to perfect my recipe and I think I finally have it down. Now it’s your turn to try it!

Important tips before you get started:
1.) DO NOT substitute regular bread crumbs for panko crumbs. Panko crumbs are the bomb (for lack of a better term) and will literally take your chicken parm from “yummy” to “yowza!” by helping make the cutlets as crispy as possible.
2.) Cooking the chicken in sunflower oil instead of olive oil is key to the frying process, so if you don’t have any sunflower oil in your pantry then please go buy some. Sunflower oil has a higher smoking point than olive oil and will keep your cutlets from burning on the outside. It will also ensure that your smoke detector doesn’t go off, which, if you’re living in a small apartment in NYC like me, is helpful if you want to stay friendly with your neighbors.
3.) Make sure to buy fresh mozzarella cheese instead of any old Polly-O-type brand that’s full of preservatives. A good, fresh mozzarella will melt perfectly and won’t be stringy at all. And let’s be honest, there’s no point in consuming the calories unless the ingredients are stellar.
4.) Feel free to alter the amount of red pepper flakes to match your tastebuds. I enjoy the heat, but the dish is just as tasty without the red pepper!

Time saver: Sometimes I get lazy and buy ready made arrabbiata sauce from Citarella. Don’t feel guilty if you do the same.

Crispy Chicken Parmigiana with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans (28 ounces) of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper (you may have some of each left over)
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 handful of fresh basil, washed and roughly torn by hand
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 1 cup of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 cups of panko bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups of sunflower oil
  • 3/4 lb of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Stir in 1/2 tsp of salt and cook for about 10 minutes, occasionally stirring and smashing with a wooden spoon. Add the red pepper and basil. Reduce flame to a simmer.
  3. Measure flour into one bowl, add 1/2 tsp of the salt, and 1/4 tsp of pepper, then mix with a fork. Crack eggs into another bowl, whisk, and add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper as well. Then measure out panko crumbs into a third bowl.
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken. Dredge each cutlet in flour, making sure it is entirely covered, then lightly shake off excess. Dip the chicken in the egg, covering both sides, then drip off excess before covering it on both sides with bread crumbs. Since panko crumbs can be quite large, make sure to press the chicken into the crumbs, crushing them to ensure that they stick properly to the cutlets.
  5. Remove the tomato sauce from the heat.
  6. Place half of the sunflower oil (3/4 of a cup) into a large sauté pan and turn burner on to medium heat. Wait until the oil is hot, about one minute, then add the first cutlet. Fry chicken for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown, then set aside. Discard old oil from pan, add the rest of the oil and cook the second cutlet.
  7. In a casserole dish (or on a baking sheet) spoon out 3/4 cup of tomato sauce. Place the chicken breasts on top of the sauce, then cover with more sauce. Layer slices of mozzarella on top of the cutlets.
  8. Cook chicken in the oven for 5-6 minutes, until cheese is melty. Then turn on the broiler and cook for 1-2 minutes, until cheese slightly bubbles and begins oozing down the sides of the cutlets.
  9. Serve hot, preferably with a side of broccoli rabe. Enjoy!

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