How Chicken Parmesan Didn’t Turn Out Like I Expected

I have been craving chicken parmesan all week. However, I hadn’t planned to make it, and I knew I was out of breadcrumbs. As I rummaged through the kitchen gathering supplies for dinner (it was a toss up between bucatini all’amatriciana and leftover pulled pork), I came across some old rolls I’d made last week. Breadcrumbs!

I thinly sliced the rolls and put them in the oven (300 for 10 minutes, or until crisp the whole way through) and tossed them in the food processor. Making breadcrumbs was louder than I expected, but there I had it. Three old rolls became one cup of fresh breadcrumbs. My excitement grew as a I imagined the warm, crispy chicken smothered in parmesan.

I had a jar of sauce in the pantry I’d purchased before a snow storm over the winter, but I bypassed it for the San Marzano tomatoes I was saving for the all’amatriciana sauce. I’ll save the jarred stuff for a night when I’m pressed for time. Tonight, we would eat Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce.

I set that to simmering and rummaged through the refrigerator. A pound of broccoli became a quick side dish with garlic and red pepper flakes, sautéed then steamed. I pounded some chicken breasts flat and heated up the oil. As I dredged the chicken in flour, eggs, and my breadcrumbs, I remembered that I wanted to shred the cheese before I started cooking the chicken, because the chicken would cook quickly.

I opened the cheese drawer and found…two blocks of romano. I dug deeper, past the feta, pepperjack, and cheddar. Nope. No matter how deep I went, passed the garbanzo flour, wheat germ, and even the dried up Thai chili pepper I purposefully put in the cheese drawer so I wouldn’t forget about it (oops!), there was no parmesan.

Apparently, I didn’t have everything I needed after all. So, I did what any cook inevitably finds herself doing. I grabbed the mozzarella (now I need to buy more for Friday night’s pizza) and shredded that, with some romano for good measure, since I have so much of it.

And that is the story of how chicken mozzarella was born. I can vouch for the parmesan though – this dish is just as tasty with parmesan as it is with mozzarella. If you plan on using mozzarella, add a little extra salt to the breading for the chicken.

Inspired by Pietro’s Chicken Parmesan.

Chicken Mozzarella (or Chicken Parmesan)

Ingredients

  • 2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts (6-8 oz. each)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian herb blend
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
  • 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella mixed with 1-2 T. shredded romano OR 1/4-1/2 c. shredded parmesan

Instructions

  1. In a large pot - I used a 5 quart pot - heat the oil to 450F over medium high heat. Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature. Keep an eye on it as you prepare the chicken to make sure it doesn't get too hot.
  2. Turn on the broiler and position an oven rack a few inches from the broiler.
  3. Trim the chicken breasts to remove any excess fat or tendons.
  4. Pound the chicken breasts flat between two sheets of plastic wrap (to cut down on the mess). This can be done with a meat mallet or a sturdy rolling pin. The chicken breasts should be a uniform thickness between 1/4- and 1/2-inch thick.
  5. Prepare the breading materials in three separate containers - plates or pie plates work well.
  6. Add the flour to the first plate and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  7. Add the eggs and some more salt and pepper to the second plate and beat well to combine.
  8. Add the breadcrumbs to the third plate and season with salt, pepper, and Italian herb blend. Stir each one to combine the seasonings.
  9. Place the first chicken breast in the flour. Roll the chicken around to make sure every part of the chicken breast is coated in flour. Hold the chicken over the flour and gently pat it to remove any excess flour.
  10. Roll the floured chicken breast in the egg. Again, make sure to cover it completely. Hold the chicken breast over the egg, and let the excess egg drip off.
  11. Press the chicken into the breadcrumbs, and then gently flip it over and press again so all surfaces are covered in bread crumbs. If there are any bare spots, sprinkle more breadcrumbs and press them in gently.
  12. Set the chicken on a clean plate, and repeat the breading process with the second chicken breast.
  13. When the chicken is breaded, and the oil is at 450F, carefully lower the first breast into the hot oil. Cook until well-browned, between 1-2 minutes, then flip and continue to cook until the other side is browned, another 30 seconds to a minute.
  14. Remove the chicken and place on a baking sheet.
  15. Check the oil temperature, and make sure it's back to 450. When the oil is ready, add the second piece of chicken, and repeat the frying process.
  16. When all the chicken is fried, top it with cheese and put it under the broiler. Broil until the cheese is browning and bubbling. Personally, I like my cheese with only a few brown spots, so I take it out after about a minute. But if you like more browning, you can broil it for two minutes.
  17. Serve immediately with pasta and sauce. Enjoy!

Notes

If this is your first time frying something, please do read a more in-depth summary of the process and how to put out a grease fire before you start cooking. I fry things regularly and have never had anything go wrong, but it's always better to be prepared. Hot oil needs to be treated with respect and care, because it can cause burns and fires.

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