Just recently I was browsing from through the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated and was so excited to see they had published a recipe for Parmesan Chicken. I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with Parmesan chicken. The last time I ordered it at a restaurant (keep in mind I’m really not a major food snob, I will eat pretty much anything. Yes I can be very opinionated about it but I will eat most things) I wondered whether it was an old soggy boot fried in a batch of oil that had been used far too many times, then covered with chewy cheese and covered in a flavorless red sauce or if it was really Chicken Parmesan. I think I ate two bites of it and that’s all I could manage. I won’t name the restaurant but yes indeed, they could learn a few things from Cook’s Illustrated Parmesan Chicken recipe.
I’m quite confident in trusting Cook’s Illustrated when it comes to recipes, as they haven’t yet let me down. Everything I’ve made from their magazine and cookbooks has been perfectly delicious. So, I was pretty excited to try out their technique and recipe for Chicken Parmesan. Yes I made a few changes of my own and I will list them below in case you want to stick with Cook’s Illustrated recipe (so I didn’t fully use their recipe but they definitely got me on the right track). This was without a doubt the best Parmesan chicken I’ve ever had. I really don’t need to tell you much more about it, like how it has such a perfectly crisp, golden, breaded exterior and a moist interior, with all the right flavors and just the right amount of gooey cheese – you just need to make it and then you’ll see what I’m talking about. I hope it becomes your new favorite. Enjoy!
Here are the adjustments I made to cooks illustrated recipe:
1/4 cup onions was not in their recipe
1 tsp dried parsley was not in their recipe
1 bay leaf was not in their recipe
They added 2 Tbsp basil after cooking sauce – I prefer to let it cook with the sauce
I reduced the amound of salt – they called for 3/4 tsp in the sauce and 1/8 tsp on each side of the chicken breasts
I replaced their 1/3 cup vegetable oil with 2 1/2 Tbsp of both vegetable oil and olive oil
Provolone cheese was not used in their recipe, rather Fontina cheese (which would also probably be delicious – the provolone was amazing though).
The Best Chicken Parmesan
Yield: 4 Servings
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed Roma tomatoes (I prefer Contadina)
- 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 2 (8 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed, halved horizontally*, and pounded to 1/2-inch thick
- 2 oz whole-milk mozzarella cheese , shredded (1/2 cup)
- 2 oz provolone cheese , shredded (1/2 cup) (I just bought a very thick slice from the deli counter, then grated it)
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese , grated (1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup torn fresh basil
For the sauce:
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot add in onions and saute for 1 1/2 minutes then add garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, parsley, oregano and red pepper flakes and saute 30 seconds longer. Stir in crushed tomatoes, sugar, bay leaf and 2 Tbsp fresh basil, then add additional salt if desired and season with pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Remove from heat and cover saucepan with lid.
For the chicken:
While sauce is simmering, sprinkle each side of the chicken cutlet lightly with salt (about 1/16 tsp per each side), let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Combine Mozzarella and Provolone cheese in a bowl, set aside. Adjust oven rack 4-inches from broiler element and preheat broiler.
In a shallow dish, whisk together flour and egg until smooth. In a separate shallow dish, toss together Parmesan cheese, Panko bread crumbs, garlic powder, oregano and 1/4 tsp pepper. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Working with 1 chicken cutlet at a time, dredge chicken in egg mixture coating both sides and allowing excess to run off, then immediately transfer to Parmesan mixture and coat both sides with mixture, while pressing gently to allow crumbs to adhere. Transfer chicken to a plate and repeat process with remaining chicken cutlets. Pour 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and vegetable oil into a 10-inch non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add 2 coated chicken cutlets and fry without moving them until bottom is crispy and golden brown, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, then using metal tongs rotate to opposite side and cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes longer. Transfer fried chicken to a large plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat process with remaining 2 pieces of chicken.
Place cutlets on rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle Mozzarella cheese mixture evenly over cutlets. Broil in oven until cheese is melted and beginning to brown, about 3 - 4 minutes (keep a close eye on it, make sure internal temp of chicken reaches 165 degrees). Remove from oven and cover each cutlet with 2 Tbsp marinara sauce. Sprinkle tops evenly with remaining 1/4 cup fresh basil and serve immediately, adding additional sauce while enjoying, as desired.
*freeze chicken breasts for 15 minutes to help slice easier, then lye breast flat and trim into two pieces through the thickness of the breast.
Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated, March and April 2013, Issue #121. Pg. 6