Sunday, May 18, 2008


Food Network's Tyler Florence has a series of "ultimates." My DVR is programmed to record them, and I watch them at my convenience. Yesterday I watched "Ultimate Chicken Parmigiana." I like Tyler. He's down to earth and his recipes are interesting. I've made chicken parm for years with no trouble, and to rave reviews. My method is a little different from his. I "fry" my breaded chicken in the oven, using a little less oil; I use Italian flavored breadcrumbs for the breading and our regular tomato sauce which is smooth and mild. I've tried variations over the years, such as mixing white wine with the egg. After watching the recording, I was hungry for some chicken parm, and I decided to go for the ultimate. My method is easier and quicker, because I make tomato sauce in batches and freeze it; so the work of making the sauce would be eliminated for this dish. Still, I think it's worth it to go the extra mile, because I liked the flavor of the olives in the sauce, and his double breading adds another depth of flavor. I'm keeping this recipe to use again. Guy, the fussy one and the resident Italian expert, gave it a thumbs up--way up.

I made a few changes, but very few and nothing to affect taste. You can find the original recipe on the Food Network site. Just do a search for ultimate chicken parmigiana. I've heard that recipes disappear from that site, so if you want the original, don't put it off. Print it out and you'll have it. Oh, and I usually don't serve chicken parm with pasta, although that is certainly an option. We like it with mashed potatoes. My recipe for lower-fat mashed potatoes will follow tomorrow.

Tyler Florence's Ultimate Chicken Parmigiana, adapted
2 Tbsp. + 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, finely choped
2 small bay leaves
1/4 cup pitted, chopped kalamata olives
1 tsp. dried basil (I used McCormick Mediterranean Basil Leaves)
28-oz. can diced tomatoes or crushed Italian plum tomatoes
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. honey
sea salt and pepper to taste
big pinch of red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour
1/8 tsp. sea salt
big pinch black pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan bread crumbs (or plain)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (or 1/2 cup if using plain breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (I used McCormick California style with parsley)
1 egg + 2 Tbsp. water
2 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 - 3/4 cup Italian 5-cheese blend shredded cheese

SAUCE: Saute the onions in 2 Tbsp. oil over medium heat in a 2-quart heavy pot for about 2-3 minutes, or till they get soft. Add the garlic and bay leaves and continue to cook for about a minute. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, stir, lower the heat and cover the pot. Cook for about an hour for best blend of flavors.

CHICKEN CUTLETS: Preheat the oven to 350F. Get the ingredients together for the chicken so you have a little assembly line.

1. Put the flour, salt and pepper in a paper plate, and mix with fork to distribute ingredients.
2. Put the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley and garlic powder in another paper plate
and mix with fork to distribute ingredients.
3. Put out one empty paper plate.
4. Crack the egg into a shallow wide bowl (like a soup bowl); add the water and whip with a
fork till it's frothy.
5. Prepare a 9x13 or 8x12 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Slice the chicken breasts in half to make them thinner, or pound them with a mallet. I got 4 cutlets from 2 chicken breasts. Because you're putting breading and cheese on them, 1 cutlet may be enough for you, as it was for us. But if you're a big eater, plan on using 2 cutlets (1 breast) per person.

Start your assembly: Using tongs for the chicken, pick up one cutlet and dredge in the flour; then dip into the egg, coating both sides. Lastly, dredge in the breadcrumb mixture. Lay the cutlet on the empty paper plate. Repeat with the other cutlets.

In a large heavy saute pan or fry pan, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets, and fry for about 4 minutes on each side until golden and crusty, turning once.
Transfer cutlets to the baking pan and ladle the tomato-olive sauce over them. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or till the cheese is bubbly. Garnish with fresh basil and serve with hot spaghetti or mashed potatoes. Serves 2-4

Notes: Tyler uses fresh basil with this dish, and I would have, except my plants are not cooperating. They got hit with some cold weather after I planted them and they are just now recovering, so it will be a while before I have fresh basil. Tyler also uses a large rectangular saute pan that is oven proof. I don't want to put my cookware into the oven, mainly because my pots hang over the stove and I've seen his pots -- they're streaky and spotted and I don't want my pots to look like that. So I transferred to a baking pan. If you have an ovenproof saute pan that you want to use, go ahead.

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