Thursday, 6 September 2012

Chicken Parm

I used to work in one of those insufferable "Italian" (but not really Italian) chain restaurants - you know the type, I'm sure. The meals come with free bread and free salad and endless refills of both. Needless to say, we used to get plenty of people that came in for no other reason than to belly-up to the trough and stuff their gullets on the cheap. Sometimes, I would introduce myself and ask how their evening was going, and their response would be "We want bread right away." It took months to stop having nightmares about the place.

The worst part was that I noticed a pattern: these government cheque types (I know that's awful to say, but still) would usually come in and ask for none other than Chicken Parmesan. I suppose that if they were going to be dining out on the town, they figured that chicken parm was "going all out." I soon started to associate chicken parm with a terribly low class of person that would order me around all night and tip me with their leftover fuzzy dimes and nickels from the bottom of their crummy purse. I could never touch the stuff. The mere sight of it turned me off, and God forbid they asked for the penne side dish! That used to just put me over the top.

Until I met my love at this particular restaurant. We both worked there and would come in early to eat together before our shifts. I always had calamari. He always had.....the chicken parm. So sure enough, I tasted it and it's pretty good. Better than pretty good. And I thought, "Well if my love wants chicken parm, then he can bloody well have it!" But I still associate ordering chicken parm in a restaurant with hillbilly-ism, so here's how you can make your own instead.

You need:
- 2 Chicken breast cutlets (if the store doesn't have cutlets, butterfly them yourself).
- Bread crumbs
Pounding the bejeesus out of the chicken
- Marinara sauce (you can make your own, but I used store bought)
- Eggs
- Milk
- Olive oil
- Fresh buffalo mozzarella (don't cheap out on this part. Buy the good stuff).

First, pound out your chicken breasts into flat cutlets about 1/2 inch thick. Use a meat tenderizer if you have it, but I only have a hammer and that worked fine.

Next, whisk a mixture of one egg and a bit of milk. Dip each cutlet in before tossing them in the breadcrumbs so that the breadcrumbs stick. You can season your breadcrumbs with pepper and oregano and all that good stuff, but I bought mine pre-seasoned.

Browning the cutlets in the pan
Now, heat about two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, brown your cutlets on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. When they're nice and brown, put them into a casserole dish and spoon the marinara sauce over them. Don't put too much sauce though, because you want to keep the cutlets crispy.

Slice or tear up your good mozzarella and layer it over top of the cutlets. Put the casserole dish in the oven at 375 for about 20 minutes or so, and maybe turn the broiler on for the last two minutes to brown up the cheese. Serve them up with a nice caesar salad, some garlic bread, and some wine.

There, now you can enjoy a nice restaurant classic without the restaurant. And really, isn't that the whole idea?

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