So did you know it’s really not Chicken Parmesan? (Collective gasp.)
That’s right! The correct name is Parmigiana, and that’s not the Italian spelling for the cheese. It’s a short form of Parmigiana di melanzana, which is the name of a Southern Italian dish. "Parmigiana" means the way it's prepared. The three most popular versions, as you already know, are eggplant (the oldest version, melanzana), veal (vitello), and chicken (pollo). Each is shallow-fried and then layered with tomato sauce and cheese.
In looking at a number of recipes online, even the Food Network calls it “Parmesan,” and then they try and throw some grated Parmesan cheese on it to justify the name. Personally, I prefer not to top the Mozzarella on mine with grated Parmesan, but as Francesco Rinaldi always said, “It’s in there!” (You'll see what I mean.)
This version was always a popular dish with the kids. In fact, it’s been requested, so I’d better get cooking!
EASY CHICKEN PARMESAN
I have never written this recipe down, and have always just made it, so feel free to improvise. This is how I made it this time.
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the breadcrumbs:
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs (I’ve also used the Italian seasoned ones)
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt (regular salt is fine)
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tablespoon water
½ to 1 cup of canola oil
Jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350°. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with a paper towel. Trim off any fat or skin that remains on the chicken breasts. If they are large, halve them and consider partially flattening the thicker portions with a meat-tenderizing hammer.
When the chicken is ready, heat canola oil in a skillet or electric frying pan. The oil should be approximately ½” deep. You can tell when the oil is hot enough by dropping a couple of breadcrumbs into it. If they sizzle, the oil is ready. Beat the two eggs with one Tablespoon of water. Dip each piece of chicken in the egg and coat with the breadcrumb mixture.
Place in the oil, topside down first, carefully positioning so that there is room for all pieces. (You only want to move the chicken once; when you turn it.)
Cook chicken for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. If chicken sticks, you probably put it in oil that wasn’t hot enough. Quelli guardare bene!
When both sides have cooked, remove the chicken to paper towel lined plates to drain.
Coat the bottom of a large baking dish or lasagna pan with spaghetti sauce, about ½“ deep. Position the chicken in the dish and place in oven for 20-30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°. The chicken will continue to brown in the oven.
When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and top with shredded Mozzarella cheese and chopped parsley. Return to oven until the cheese is just melted.
I almost forgot! Now for the "Really Easy" Chicken Parmesan. Buy chicken cutlets that are already breaded and cooked or partially cooked. Simply place them in the sauce and heat them according to package directions and then top with Mozzarella and serve.