Friday, 30 September 2011

Chicken Parmesan

     One of my all time favorite dishes is Chicken Parmesan, it's the crisp breading, the melted cheese and the homemade tomato sauce...what's there not to love?  I was treading on dangerous ground though as we had Chicken Piccata and Thai Green Curry with Chicken last week and my partner is not the biggest fan of chicken, but what the heck, right?  He loved both those dishes (always does) and I thought, why not push the envelope a bit.

     I had very little of my bread crumbs left and as I didn't feel like toasting and smashing up some new ones, I mixed what I had with a little Panko which I had never done before.  I seasoned my crumbs with Oregano, Basil, Salt and fresh cracked Black Pepper...just the basics.  I dragged my chicken in a bit of beaten egg and crusted them in my crumb mixture. 

     In a nice hot pan with a mix of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a pad of Non-Salted Butter, I cook each side until they are both golden brown.  Once that is achieved I place them in the oven to finish cooking while I make the Caesar Salad (I always use grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and chopped Romaine Lettuce), and then the pasta.  The trick to great chicken is not to over bake it and let it dry out, it is always best when it is still moist and juicy.

Cooking up in the pan
     In our family we grew up making our own sauce and mom would freeze any extra for the next time it was needed.  I continue that tradition as it is easy to do and the end result is always more satisfying for me knowing it didn't come from a jar.  I always start with what I consider the basic ingredients for my sauce and then add to it whatever I have in the house and suits my fancy for the day, last night it was mushrooms.

4 Small Cloves of Garlic, minced
1/2 Medium Onion, chopped
6 Crimini Mushrooms, chopped small
5 Shakes from the Basil jar
5 Shakes from the Oregano jar
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Small Can Tomato Paste, I use the whole can...
1 Large Can Tomatoes, last night I had San Marzano... 
2-3 Teaspoons of White Sugar

     I saute the onion and mushrooms in a few tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a pad of butter with the seasoning's.  When they are soft and only slightly browning, I add the garlic and pull the pot off of the stove so I can mix it all together.  It helps the garlic from burning if it is not over the direct heat.  I add my tomato paste, stir....over the heat for about a minute and add my tomatoes. 

     You can always add a liquid to the sauce as well, some use water, some use tomato juice, and some even use tomato soup...I will leave this one up to you.  Personally, I choose between an actual can of tomato sauce, tomato juice if I have it or water, for me it's whatever is on hand.

     Sometimes I add fresh tomatoes if I have them and if you do, this is the time to throw them in.  Let this simmer together awhile and taste.  Usually the tomatoes are highly acidic, so this is when I toss in my sugar, it helps to sweeten things up a bit and creates a nice balance.  Simmering this sauce for anywhere between 45 minutes and a hour and it's done, it reduces down a bit, the flavors meld together and is normally delicious.

     Last night I cooked my tomato sauce for a little over an hour only because we weren't ready to eat yet : )  the longer it simmers, the yummier it yummier a word? Why yes, in my kitchen it is!

     I served my Chicken Parmesan with fresh (store bought) linguine.  I used white cheddar melted on the chicken as I didn't have mozzarella and finished it off with a bit of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top of it all.  When I cook I like to wing it sometimes with what I have in the house, and again last night...dinner turned out fantastic and it was a great Chicken Parmesan even without the proper cheese.
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