Yep, I'll say it, it's the best. I challenge anyone to make a better chicken parm. I've been perfecting this recipe for several years now and I think I've got it down pretty good. The key to the recipe, besides my homemade tomato sauce, is the breading to chicken ratio. I believe Bec has mentioned that before on the blog, well this is the recipe that started it all. Isn't all cooking about ratios anyway? A lot of Italian restaurants pound the crap out of the chicken breast so it's so thin that it's impossible to NOT over cook. I'd rather have a nice tender piece of meat that tastes delicious, than a burnt piece of crusty chicken. If you're like me, then this recipe is for you.
So once again, I'm including two recipes in one, the chicken parm of course, and my tomato sauce recipe. Now, let me start by saying I rarely measure anything in the kitchen, unless on the off chance I'm baking or following some new recipe. Like I said, its all about the ratios. Also, use good ingredients, I can't stress this enough. Use the good fresh mozzarella, not that pre shedded in a bag crap. Also, you should use imported DOP certified San Marzano tomatoes. The difference between these and anything else is night and day.
Chicken breasts, cut into strips (one breast yields 3-4 strips)
Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Locatelli (Pecorino Romano) cheese, grated
Butermilk or heavy cream
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Vegetable Oil (optional)
Tomato sauce (recipe follows)
Mozzarella cheese (fresh, cut into thin pieces)
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 or bowl, break 2-3 eggs and scramble them a little bit and add a few tablespoons of buttermilk. In another big plate or bowl, 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 oil (I use about half extra virgin and half vegetable) and get it hot . Now fry the strips for about 3 minutes on each side until they get a nice golden crust. Place on a plate with a couple paper towels to sop up the excess oil. Note: You can stop here and enjoy these as some of the most delicious chicken tenders you've ever had.
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. Add a bit of tomato sauce over the chicken, not covering them completely. I like some crispy bits without the tomato sauce covering every bite. Add the pieces of mozzarella over the chicken, and top off with a little dusting of Locatelli.
Bake in the oven until the cheese melts throughout and just starts to brown. (350 degrees for 25-30 minutes) 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, diced fine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup good red wine (make sure its a good wine you plan on drinking)
Locatelli (Pecorino Romano) cheese
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. (these below are Organic, I bought a ton of them because they were on sale at Whole Foods for $3.29 / can.)
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 (about 8 minutes), 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!
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. Add the wine now too, as well as a couple heavy pinches of salt. 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. Check the seasoning, you may want to add a bit more salt or cheese, or even a splash or two of wine.
Stir it in well for a few minutes, then add in a tablespoon or 2 of fresh or dried basil and serve.
Download a printable copy of the tomato sauce recipe here!
Download a printable copy of the the chicken parm recipe here!