As is the case within most families, birthdays were special events in our household and Mom would fix whatever dish the birthday child desired. For me, that choice was always veal parmesan. Mom served it with home-made pasta and I was one happy boy. Nowadays, I tend to avoid veal but I can’t avoid this dish nor the memories it evokes. So, instead of veal, I use chicken. It may not be the same but it’s close enough — and certainly good enough — for me.
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To begin, I start with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which are fried after being floured and breaded. They are then placed into a baking dish, smothered in marinara sauce, and topped with sliced mozzarella & grated parmesan cheese before being baked in the oven. Yes, this recipe can make a mess of your kitchen but the pay-off is well worth the effort. The only advice in this area that I might offer is to clean as you go. When the marinara sauce is simmering, clean the work area and utensils. The same goes with the breading station as the chicken is being fried. When the final dish is in the oven, put the rest of the mess into the dishwasher (I hope you have a dishwasher) and start it running. Take it from one who’s been there, your kitchen will resemble a disaster area if you put off the cleaning until after you’ve eaten dinner.
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Chicken Parmesan Recipe
- 1 quart Marinara Sauce
- 1 pkg boneless, skinless chicken thighs (5 or 6 thighs)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp milk
- 3 tbsp olive oil, more as needed for frying
- 1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly to provide a slice for each thigh
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper
- Set up a breading station. Place the flour in one dish; combine the eggs & milk and place into the center dish; and in the third dish mix the bread crumbs, garlic powder, onion powder and parsley. Season each thigh with salt & pepper. Use the standard breading technique and begin by coating each thigh with the flour, one at a time. Shake off the excess flour before coating the thigh with the egg mixture. Allow the excess to drain a bit and dredge the thigh in the bread crumbs. Set the breaded thigh aside and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
- Place oil in a large frying pan and heat over med-high heat. Working in batches, fry the breaded thighs until each side is golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. If necessary, replenish the oil between batches.
- Pre-heat oven to 375*.
- Liberally butter or use a cooking spray to coat a 9 x 13″ baking dish.
- Coat the bottom of the dish with a few ladles of the marinara sauce.
- Place the fried chicken pieces into the dish and use the rest of the tomato sauce to cover them all.
- Evenly sprinkle the dish with the parmesan cheese and then position one slice of mozzarella on top of each chicken piece.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for another 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.
Originally, Mom shallow-fried the veal in about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil. Initially, I did the same with the chicken pieces but, over the years, eventually cut out most of the oil in favor of a few tbsp of olive oil. Use whichever method you prefer, so long as the breaded pieces are golden brown when you’re done.
Mom never baked her veal parmesan and you needn’t bake this dish either. In a large, deep frying pan with a lid, add enough sauce to generously coat the pan’s surface, add the coated, fried chicken pieces, and cover with more sauce before sprinkling with grated parmesan cheese and topping with mozzarella slices. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat until the chicken is fully cooked, about 30 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer when in doubt.
I use chicken thighs but chicken breasts, tenders, or whatever chicken parts you prefer can be substituted. You may find, however, that boneless pieces work best. No matter what part(s) of the chicken you use, just be aware that the cooking times may vary, so, again, use an instant read thermometer to ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked.
The dish, as shown, was prepared “family style” and I wouldn’t necessarily serve it this way for guests. Here, the chicken pieces are pretty much blanketed by a coating of cheese. If I were serving guests, I would be more careful with the cheese placement, using less cheese and restricting it to the individual chicken pieces. For “family,” however, I’ll go with the cheese blanket and I haven’t had any complaints yet.
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