Wednesday, September 24, 2008

John's Chicken Parm

My brother-in-law John loves to cook (And yes, he's single. Just saying). Which works out well for me, because I like to eat whatever he cooks. A few weeks ago John and Joe put themselves in charge of dinner and made an awesome Italian feast. While Joe declined to share his secret recipe for meatballs (well, beyond "Cheese. Lots of cheese.") John was more than happy to provide his chicken parm and tomato sauce recipes. And they are good. Really, really good . Awesome food is one of the benefits of marrying into an Italian family!

John’s Chicken Parm

Chicken breasts, cut into strips
Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Locatelli (Pecorino Romano) cheese
2 eggs
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Tomato sauce (recipe follows)
Mozzarella cheese – shredded
Basil (fresh or dried)

Cut the chicken breasts into strips and trim off any fat and that annoying hard white cartilage thing that’s in the breasts sometimes. On a big plate, break the 2 eggs and scramble them a little bit. On another big plate spread out a good amount (1 1/2 cups) of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs. On the same plate, mix in half that amount (3/4 cup) of grated Locatelli. Mix the cheese and bread crumbs thoroughly.

Now dip the chicken strips one at a time in the breadcrumb mix, then in the egg, then another dip in the breadcrumbs. Make sure to get a good coating of the breadcrumbs the second time. When they are all coated, they’re ready for the oil. Now most of the time I bread the chicken the night before and keep them in the fridge, I also find that they fry more evenly when I keep them chilled at least for an hour or so. But you can fry them right away, just the same.

In a nice big frying pan, coat the bottom of the pan with about a quarter inch of extra virgin olive oil and get it hot. Now fry the strips for a few minutes on each side until they get a nice golden crust.
In a 13 x 9 pyrex, or similar size oven safe pan, spoon in enough tomato sauce to coat the bottom, and lay in the strips to form a nice layer. Sprinkle in however much cheese you like over the chicken, then another layer of tomato sauce, again, however much you like. Top off with more mozzarella and a little dusting of Locatelli.

Bake in the oven until the cheese melts throughout and just starts to brown. (350 for 30 minutes) Sometimes I cook on a lower temperature and finish browning the cheese under the broiler, but be careful not to burn the cheese!

When its still hot, sprinkle with basil (fresh if you have it) and serve.

John’s Tomato Sauce

2 28oz. cans DOP Certified San Marzano peeled tomatoes (I like Cento brand)
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Small onion
Fresh garlic
½ cup good red wine (optional)
Locatelli (Pecorino Romano) cheese
Fresh Basil

Note: The important thing about this sauce is the tomatoes. The DOP San Marzano’s are every bit worth the hefty price tag. I’ve tried a lot of different brands, and these are the hands down winner. Once you try them, you won’t use anything else.

Coat the bottom of your sauce pot with a good amount of extra virgin olive oil. Turn the flame to a medium simmer. Add in a half cup of finely chopped onions and cook until they are just translucent, then add in the garlic. (Now I have been known to cheat here when I don’t have fresh garlic or an onion on hand, I get nearly the same results with a tablespoon or so of garlic powder and just a little bit less of onion powder. After all, this sauce is all about these tomatoes). You only want to cook the garlic for a minute or two, do not burn it!

At this point you can add the wine if you want, cook it for a couple minutes, just to let a little of the alcohol cook away. Next add the two cans of tomatoes. Fill each can halfway with water and pour back into the sauce, making sure to get all the bits from the can into the sauce. Stir well and cover for 15 minutes or so to soften the tomatoes, then turn down the flame to a low simmer and uncover. Since the tomatoes are whole, you need to get a potato masher and start crushing the tomatoes. I usually do this for a couple minutes every so often as the sauce cooks.

Eventually you’ll have the sauce to whatever level of chunkiness you prefer. (This sauce can take anywhere from a half hour to 2 or more hours to cook, its really up to you. The longer you cook it, the thicker its going to get because all that water is evaporating.) When the sauce is how you like it, add in a half cup of grated Locatelli, add more or less, depending how cheesy you like it.

Stir it in well for a few minutes, then add in a tablespoon or 2 of fresh or dried basil and serve.


Lauren said...

John, you can come to my house ANYTIME.

Dana McCauley said...

So true about the quality of the tomatoes being important. When you want to make a simple sauce, you need the best ingredients!

Joelen said...

This looks like a great recipe and I like that its not the traditional full chicken breasts but strips. Kudos to John!