Chicken parmigiana

Chicken parmigiana

By
From
Sicily
Serves
4

The idea of coating flattened meat and vegetables is popular all over Italy. In the wealthier houses in Sicily, meat was pounded until just a few millimetres thick and coated with crunchy breadcrumbs and fried. The poorer households did a similar thing with aubergines (eggplants).

When large numbers of Sicilians emigrated to the US after the Second World War they took their traditional recipes with them. As they prospered abroad, they were able to replace the aubergines with chicken and the famous American-Sicilian dish of chicken parmigiana was born. Now forgive me if this recipe is a little off-track in a Sicilian cookbook, but our family happens to love this dish. For authenticity I asked Americans Pat and Diane Frustaci, of Sicilian descent, and Howard Roseman, who has knowledge of the dish, to help me out. They all live in New Jersey and work with my sister Louise. They remember their grandmothers cooking the dish, the evolution of it over the years, and were happy to help me recreate these two recipes for the book.

For a healthier choice, instead of frying the chicken, give it a light spray with olive oil and bake it in the oven until golden. Then follow the recipe as before. In America, this dish is served with buttered linguine but I prefer it with sautéed spinach, steamed greens or a salad dressed with lemon and olive oil.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
4 skinless free-range chicken breasts
salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano, plus extra to sprinkle
50g ‘00’, plain or gluten-free flour
2 eggs, beaten
100g dry gluten-free or wheat breadcrumbs
75g finely grated parmesan
8-10 tablespoons seed or groundnut oil, for frying
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 quantity see method for ingredients
2 x 125g balls of mozzarella, cut into 1 cm slices and drained in a sieve
a few basil leaves, to garnish

Method

  1. Cut the chicken breasts in half along the side and open them up like a book. Cut through the spine of each ‘book’ so that you have two separate halves. Place the halves between two pieces of cling film (plastic wrap) and pound the chicken breasts with a meat tenderiser or the flat of a small saucepan until around 5 mm thick. Season with salt and pepper and scatter half the oregano over the flattened chicken, pressing it in with your hands. Turn the chicken breasts over and season the other side.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Prepare three wide bowls, one with the flour, one with beaten egg and one with breadcrumbs mixed with half the Parmesan.
  3. Heat a third of the oil with the garlic in a large frying pan and, when you can smell the garlic, remove the garlic from the pan and set aside. Dip the chicken breast pieces first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg and then the breadcrumbs, making sure they are evenly coated. Pan-fry until light golden brown on both sides. This should take just a couple of minutes a side. You can fry the chicken in batches, adding a little more oil and the garlic back into the pan each time, making sure the oil is hot before frying.
  4. Pour a thin layer of the tomato sauce into a large ovenproof dish and lay over the chicken pieces. Spoon a heaped tablespoon more sauce over each piece. Arrange the mozzarella on top of the chicken and scatter over the remaining Parmesan. Bake in the oven for 10–15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the chicken is cooked through (make sure there are no pink juices when you pierce the thickest part with a skewer or the internal temperature is 85°C when measured with a probe thermometer). Remove from the oven and serve straight away scattered with the basil.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Sicily
Sicilian
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