When asked my favorite dish to make I find myself suddenly stumped… as if being asked to name your favorite family member…
and you know who you are... ;)
Chicken Parmesan has an interesting reputation of being heavy, cheese-laden poultry. While this is hardly a fat-free dish I find myself modifying and adapting it to suit a particular need. Adding Whole Wheat breadcrumbs or even Flax Meal works well, but for Chic Parm (as we affectionately nick named it) I most enjoy serving it at a dinner party, mainly because it is so simple to make ahead.
Puttanesca sauce of course can be made with various degrees of spiciness or briny dipped olives and capers. I actually hold out the anchovies because they are controversial with many dinner guests and the flavor is seldom missed. Puttanesca means “ladies of the night” and there are several translations as to what it really means. For me it simply means easy… and delicious.
For prep ahead, make the chicken, breaded, crispy golden, and store it separate. Next make the sauce as far ahead as you like, allowing the flavors to absorb and embrace each other fully.
Assembly is swift, layering the sauce with the chicken breasts and finishing the baking in the oven. Dinner is served as easy as a casserole and as beautiful as fine-dining.
Chicken Parmesan Puttanesca
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (the halves), trimmed and ready
pinch of salt and pepper to taste
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese (no green cans)
2 eggs, beaten
For the Sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1- 24 ounce can Roasted & Crushed Tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
½ to 1 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste
½ cup sliced green and kalamata olives
¼ cup capers
1 tbls balsamic vinegar
½ cup parsley and/or basil, roughly chopped
To Prepare the Chicken:
Place a chicken breast in between two pieces of plastic wrap or slip into a large plastic Ziploc bag. Determine the thinnest part of the chicken- this is as thin as you want to go. Pound evenly with a mallet or a heavy, smooth bottomed frying pan until it is an even thickness. Repeat with the remaining three chicken breasts.
Toss together the panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese on a plate. Place the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl. Unwrap the chicken breast holding the chicken in one hand and dip into the beaten eggs. Shake off the excess egg and gently lay in the pile of crumbs. With your dry, clean hand scoop the crumbs on top and press in gently. Flip over, scoop and press in the crumbs again. Place the crumbed-chicken breasts on a tray.
Next, Make the Sauce:
Warm a saucepan over medium-high heat, drizzle in the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, toss in the onion chunks and sauté lightly until slightly golden, pour in the crushed tomatoes and bring up to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes, then add the minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Simmer for a few more minutes. To finish, add in half of the olives and half of the capers. Splash in the vinegar. Taste! Adjust seasonings if necessary.
To Sear the Chicken:
Place a skillet (cast-iron is great for this!) over medium-high heat, once it is hot drizzle in 1 tsp olive oil or if you have an oil mister, spray the pan well. Sear the chicken breasts on each side for about 3-5 minutes, until golden. They don’t need to be cooked all the way through, because they will be finished in the oven.
The dish is now ready to put together. Preheat the oven to 375. If desired, cut each breast in half on a diaganol since 1 breast is about 2 servings. Place the breast in the pan and dollop about 1/3 cup of sauce on top. Lay the next piece overlapping slightly. Add another 1/3 cup dollop of sauce. Continue until all of the chicken is laid down. Drizzle any remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle the remaining olives and capers on top. If you have additional parmesan, sprinkle this on top as well. Loosely cover with foil and bake for 15-25 minutes until the chicken is hot and the sauce is steamy.
If making this dish ahead: Chill the sauce and the chicken separately. Repeat the final directions with the ingredients cold. Bake the cold dish for 35-45 minutes.
I look forward to hearing about your Chic Parm variations... please post your favorites!