February 27, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken parmesan is one of the most popular Italian dishes in the U.S. Its simple flavors make it a favorite for kids everywhere, and it's familiarity gives it a great comfort food quality. That said, despite it's ubiquity, so often it's poorly done, especially by home cooks (or the Olive Garden). Too often chicken parm can be dry, overly greasy, poorly flavored, too crispy and burnt, or mushy. Plainly put, there are a lot of ways it can be done wrong. Follow this recipe and procedure and you'll have excellent chicken parm every time.

Umm...we're making chicken? Yea! 

Read more to see what we did!

Making the Dish
There are a couple of tricks involved and we'll talk you through each one. The first is preparing the chicken. You'll want chicken breasts or chicken cutlets, and after rinsing them off the first thing you'll want to do is pound them flat with a tenderizer, so that they're about an inch thick all across. Doing so allows you to get uniform cooking across the entire piece of meat.

The next trick is the breading. You want to make sure the breading stays on the meat, and you want it to be well flavored. For the breadcrumbs, in a pinch we use breadcrumbs with italian seasoning like those from Progresso. However if you want to really impress, use Panko bread crumbs. These crumbs will be larger and provide a better texture.

Our (admittedly non-panko) breadcrumbs.

To make the breading, in a large bowl, combine your crumbs with your grated cheese. Although it's called chicken parmesan, we like to use part parmesan and part pecorino romano - doing so provides more dimensions of flavor. For us, the breadcrumb to cheese ratio can be almost 1:1 - about 1.5 cups of breadcrumbs to 0.9 cups of cheese. Add in the freshly grated black pepper, a touch of salt, and then a dash of cayenne pepper, oregano, and basil. Stir all the ingredients together until they are well blended. 

Dredging the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture. 

Next, dredge your chicken in the breading. Take two eggs and beat them up in a separate bowl, and place it next to your breadcrumbs bowl. You will dip your chicken into the egg first, let any excess drip off (that's important - you want to make sure there's only a light coating of egg before moving on), and then dip your chicken into the breading to get it coated. Once the chicken is completely coated with breadcrumbs, put it on a plate and finish off the rest of your chicken pieces. The "official" word on dredging is that you should coat your chicken in flour first, before dipping into the egg. We've never done it that way, and doing without has worked just fine, but we'll try it at some point and update this post if necessary. 

Our chicken cutlets fry in oil. 

The final trick is the cooking. A lot of people will fry the chicken the entire time in oil until it's done. Others will go straight to baking at this point. Neither will yield you what you want. Our advice: combine the methods. Preheat your oven to 375, and take a large, non stick pan and put it over medium high heat. Add about a quarter cup of olive oil to the pan and let it get hot, until smoking. Then, gently place your chicken into the oil. Be careful as it will splatter. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the cooked side is golden brown, and then carefully flip over and cook the other side for about 3 minutes. 

Our chicken is golden brown, after just a few minutes in hot olive oil. 

Once this is done, place the chicken on a paper towel and let the excess oil drip off. If you're doing a big batch of chicken, you may need to add a little more oil into the pan, and be careful to move any excess breadcrumbs that may have fallen into the pan and are now burnt away from the center so they do not end up on your chicken. 

Our perfectly golden chicken, on a bed of tomato sauce. 
To finish, take out a baking dish and cover the bottom with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Put the chicken on top of the sauce, and then add another dollop of the sauce on top, spreading around the chicken evenly. Finally, place a nice thick slice of buffalo mozarella on top of each piece of chicken.

Slicing the mozzarella into thick slices to top the chicken. 

The buffalo mozarella will really help to make this dish stand out - once you try it, you'll never go back to that Kraft pre-shredded stuff. Place the baking dish in the oven and let cook for 7 - 10 minutes, until the mozarella has melted and browned slightly, and the chicken has cooked through. 

Scattering pieces of mozzarella all over the chicken. We were cooking for quite a few people, if it's just you and a friend, one or two pieces of the mozzarella is all you need. 

The Result

What you'll have as an outcome is a perfect chicken parm. Crispy, golden brown, juicy, and extremely flavorful. You can serve it with pasta to use up your extra tomato sauce, or with vegetables, risotto, or really anything you like. It's a very versatile dish.

Hopefully with this technique in mind, you'll be even more successful at making it than you have been before!

The Best Chicken Parmesan
4 free range chicken breasts, pounded to one inch thick
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1 tablespoon freshly grated black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 oz buffalo mozarella
2 cups classic tomato sauce

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 min


  1. absolutely wonderful! Just made it tonight for the family, and it got rave reviews! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Ali! We're so glad it turns out well. Did you make any changes that we should try for ourselves?

  3. Your Welcome! Nope I didn't make any changes. I even posted a picture and link on my blog too. www.ali-avenue.blogspot.com

    Funny thing is I just made it yesterday and the leftovers are gone. Now that says something in my house!


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