Home Date: Baked Chicken Parmesan

Oven Baked Chicken Parmesan

Last night, I made one of those dinners.  You know, one of those dinners that reminds you of why you started cooking in the first place… I made baked chicken parmesan with a little pasta and green beans, and it was great and cheesy and simple and filling and unfussy, just the way it ought to be.  It was real food, an actual meal, which is why I’ve always been such a fan of this dinner.  It’s so, well, legitimate.  If you can make decent chicken parmesan, then you can cook, and if you can cook, then the whole world is your oyster you probably won’t starve.  I used to be crazy, and thus hesitant about eating food that actually tasted good (what a concept!).  One day, I finally broke down and asked my mom for this recipe so I could impress Ryan, my new boyfriend, who had been hungry since our first date.  The recipe/meal/ingredient list has changed a good bit since then, but it’s the same concept:  lightly bread a few pieces of chicken, bake them, and then bake them in tomato sauce with cheese.  Brilliant.

Here’s how I made last night’s, both in pictures and in too many words:

Baked Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients

for the chicken:

  • 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to an even thickness of about 3/4 inch
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (next time, I’d use more)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • true Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt, dried oregano, dried parsley, crushed red pepper

for the casserole:

  • 1 can (28 oz.) best-quality crushed tomatoes (San Marzano, Pomi)
  • 8 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
  • true Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and coat with nonstick spray.
  • Prepare chicken breasts, removing excess fat and pounding to an even thickness of at least one inch, probably less.  You could also buy chicken cutlets, although you will be paying extra for someone else’s labor.  You can cover the cleaned breasts with parchment paper and go at ’em with the bottom of a heavy pan or casserole dish, too.  And it’s really fun, guys!
  • In a bowl, combine one beaten egg with a little bit of milk (about 1/4 of a cup should do).  Then dump the liquid mixture onto a plate.

    Eggs and Breadcrumbs and Stuff

  • In another bowl, add one cup of panko breadcrumbs.  I used panko tonight for a crispiness that I actually did not really achieve—panko is almost like puffed rice and a serving of it is 1/2 cup, not 1/4 a cup like most regular breadcrumbs, which contain less air and are far more dense.  I’d use a lot more breadcrumbs next time to accommodate for this and actually get more of a crunch.  Still, if you lie to yourself and pretend you don’t really like bread or just don’t care or whatever, 1 cup is honestly fine.  Now, panko breadcrumbs don’t come with interesting “Italian” seasonings, so you’ll have to—sigh—season the crumbs yourself!  Read on!
  • Add to the breadcrumbs about 1/2 generous teaspoon garlic powder, scant 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley, a crack or two of freshly ground pepper, and dashes of crushed red pepper, dried oregano, and sea salt.  If you have fresh flat leaf parsley, by all means, use it!  If you want, and I always want, add a little bit of freshly graded true Parmigiano-Reggiano to the mix, for a rich and salty crust.  Now combine the crumbs and the spices, and dump the mixture onto another big plate.
  • Create an assembly line in this order: chicken, egg plate, crumb plate, greased cookie sheet.  Then get to work: moisten a piece of chicken in the eggy liquid, then flip it around in the breadcrumbs, and then place it on the cookie sheet.  Repeat until you can’t no’ mo’!  I find it helpful to only put some of the breadcrumbs on the plate at one time, so as not to use them all up or get them all soggy all at once or anything.  I think refilling the plate every two or three chicken pieces is probably a good strategy.

    Create an assembly line for baking the chicken: chicken, egg/milk, breadcrumbs, greased, foiled cookie sheet.

  • Bake for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Prepare the casseroles.

    Breaded chicken breasts after 10 minutes baking.

  • Grease one big (think lasagna) or 2 smaller (like, paper or legal paper size) glass or ceramic casserole dishes with nonstick cooking spray. Then add enough crushed tomatoes to the casserole to cover the bottom generously.  This will certainly use up at least 1/2 the can of tomatoes, and probably more.

    Using best-quality crushed tomatoes or a good, prepared marinara, cover the bottom of the greased casserole dishes with sauce.

  • Place the half-baked chicken pieces on top of the tomato sauce.  Add a few spoonfuls more crushed tomato to the tops of the chicken.

    Baked chicken breasts atop a pretty bed of San Marzanos!

  • Add the mozzarella cheese to the casseroles.  I used about 5 to 6 ounces of the cheese, probably less.  But maybe you want it extra cheesy, and that would be more than okay!

    "Bake Me! Bake Me!" cried the impetuous little casserole. "I will," replied I, smiling coyly. For I had a plan. And an appetite, too.

  • Cover the casseroles tightly with aluminum foil and bake for another 20 minutes.

    Seal 'em up, yo!

  • After baking covered for 20 minutes at 350°, uncover the casseroles and allow them to bake for another five minutes, so the cheese is all bubbly!  WORD.
  • Top with fresh basil and a little bit of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and enjoy!

Oven Baked Chicken Parmesan

Extras

  • With the leftover crushed tomatoes, you can prepare a little bit of simple sauce to serve with pasta as a side dish.

    Chop Chop

    I chopped up 1/4 of a red onion and 1/4 of an orange bell pepper and sautéed them in a drizzle of olive oil and just a little bit of minced garlic.  When soft, add the remaining crushed tomatoes.  Plus all the regulars: dried parsley, crushed red pepper, cracked black pepper, a little sea salt, and some fresh basil.  You can always add some (a few tablespoons) of the starchy pasta water to the sauce to make it stretch.  But remember, there will be extra sauce in the casseroles, too!

    Making a simple orange pepper and red onion tomato sauce for a side dish.

  • A lot of people would make this dish with a prepared jar of tomato sauce.  That would be fine!  I have grown to love the taste of simple and good tomatoes, but you can really do whatever.
  • You can figure out how to cook green beans without my help, right?
  • This meal can be as healthy or unhealthy as you please: whole wheat breadcrumbs and egg whites are always an option.  If you are trying to reduce fat,  I would recommend using less cheese as opposed to using reduced-fat cheese (the mozzarella is already a part-skim cheese), and I would use extra Parmigiano-Reggiano, because its flavor goes such a long way.  You can also bread only the top of the chicken, if that’s what your dreams are made of.  And you can serve it with a giant salad or whatever.  But remember, you are making chicken parmesan, and it isn’t fried or from a restaurant, so you’ve already done a good job of thinking about your health.  So please, at least make it taste good!  Don’t try to turn comfort food into a soybean!  Your friends will resent you!

I think he was hungry? And wanted to eat while I was still photographing dinner.

Anyway, this is a great dinner, and it was nice to work on it before Ryan got home from the office, so when he walked in the door, we could get right down to spending the night together.  And, the Dodgers actually beat the Angels!  Happy Friday!  I don’t know what we are doing tonight, because we got tacos on Wednesday night after Ryan’s work party, which messes with Taco Friday… Oh well.  I have a really fun candy-related story I want to share but not right now, because I just ate double peanut butter toast (yum) and want to go work out before I lose my spark!  And I passed a J. CREW sale yesterday, so you know where to find me if you need me.  (Have I told you about my shorts tan?!  OH MY GOD.)  Cook something cool this weekend and tell me all about it!  Byeeee.

Advertisements
Comments
13 Responses to “Home Date: Baked Chicken Parmesan”
  1. thehungryscholar says:

    I have an English degree too, well 2…onto the the 3rd! Love the blog. I love Chicken Parmesan, also. I’ve been looking for a healthy version.

  2. Jean says:

    This looks great! It’s great comfort food, I think! 🙂

  3. Mom says:

    I wish you could deliver……I am always looking for a shorter short cut to good eating at home. One day I shall make eggplant this way. It would look really good in that nice yellow casserole dish of yours!

  4. Monet says:

    Wonderful…and another thing in common…when Ryan and I first started dating (and we still ate meat) I made him both a pot roast and chicken parm….both recipes from my sweet mom. Lovely post and lovely boy and lovely food!

  5. Chicken parm is one of my absolute favorites, and your take on it looks so, so good!

  6. Healthy AND cheesy. As they say, the way to a man’s heart….

  7. I like the idea of baking the chicken…..

  8. Looks wonderful, love the sauce. This really can be a very healthy meal.

  9. I love Pomi… This looks great Lauren:)

  10. Don’t turn comfort food into a soybean. Perfect. This recipe is the NEXT dinner party. This meal looks accomplished…and I’m sure Ryan was happy– look at his smile in the picture!

  11. Gah! My god, you sound just like me. Chicken parm was the first recipe I ever made to impress “the boy” (who’s now the husband, so I guess it was tasty). Any man can be easily won over with lots of meat – even chicken – topped with cheese and sauce and made with love. You have one lucky guy. I love the color of your tomato sauce with the orange peppers and onions. Great pictures from this, and from your Miami trip! Glad to have you back in the blog world! 🙂 Have a great weekend.

Say something!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: