Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chicken Parmesan

Olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 med. green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup calamite olives, pitted
1 can (14.5 oz.) Diced tomatoes in sauce
1 jar (24 oz.) 4 cheese spaghetti sauce
6 - 8 boneless, skinless chicken strips
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt & pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. water
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 lb. Spaghetti, cooked

In a large sauce pan heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and bell peppers.  Sauté 5 minutes.  Add olives, tomatoes and spaghetti sauce.  Turn heat low enough to simmer. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a non-stick frying pan, heat enough olive oil to lightly cover bottom of pan.  In a shallow bowl mix flour, salt & pepper.  In 2nd bowl mix eggs and water.  Place Panko bread crumbs in 3rd bowl.   Dip chicken strips into flour bowl, then into egg mixture, then into panko coating on all sides.  Place into frying pan and brown on both sides.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Place chicken evenly in dish.  Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.  Spoon sauce evenly over chicken and cheese.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese has melted.  Sprinkle with 2nd cup of mozzarella cheese and place back in oven to melt remaining cheese - 5 - 10 minutes.  Serve over cooked spaghetti.

Martha:  When I found the original recipe for this dish I thought - OK, I'm going to make it just as it is and no changes - not!  I made several ingredient changes, one being the spaghetti sauce instead of 2 cans of tomatoes.  I changed the bread crumbs to Panko, left out the garlic and bay leaves and basil since the spaghetti sauce had its own seasonings.  The olives and frying the chicken in the olive oil gave the breading and chicken a light, delicate olive taste.  This dish was really a hit with everyone that ate it.  The sauce is a little on the thick side and I thought that wouldn't work well with the spaghetti but boy was I wrong.  You didn't need a lot of sauce to season the pasta. 

Lillian:  I love Parmesan and this sounds so good.  The double layer of Mozzarella cheese, plus the Parmesan, is delicious.  Like you, I don't think that you must drown spaghetti in sauce and actually prefer very little sauce on my pasta.  This works so well and the thickness of the sauce makes it cling even more to the spaghetti.  A watery sauce just won't work well here.  This will please the entire family, or just for a nice dinner for two (with left-overs for another night).  This is a "must try" recipe.

Food Tester Carol:  Did you ever know that the tomatoes in spaghetti sauce could sing? Well they do in this recipe. Mixing a can of tomatoes with a can of pasta sauce makes the tomato component of this dish surprisingly light. They are in perfect harmony with the chicken breasts and finished off in the oven with melted mozzarella and Parmesan! You can come home from work and whip this up in very little time, just as Martha did on a spring evening, delivering it while it was still daylight!

Tips:  A lot of times a recipe will call for your poultry to be placed in a brine, but what exactly is a brine?  Brining is like a marinade.  It keeps the food moist and tender.  It's a way of increasing the moisture holding capacity of meat resulting in a moister product when it's cooked.  Salt changes the structure of the muscle tissue allowing it to swell and absorb water and flavorings making the turkey or chicken tender.

Most brines start with water and salt - 3/4 lb. of salt per gallon of water but since you aren't using the brine to preserve your chicken you can cut back on the salt.  When picking a salt for your brine, you will normally choose either Kosher salt or table salt without iodine.  Sea salt can be used but it's a bit more expensive.  But keep this in mind when measuring out your salt.  Kosher salt and table salt are not equal in weight.  Table salt weighs about 10 oz. per cup where as Kosher salt weights between 5 to 8 ounces per cup depending on the brand.  So if you use Kosher salt you must use more than 1 cup to achieve the same saltiness that you would get form 1 cup of table salt.