Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Old Favorite With a Twist

Ah chicken parmesana, how I love thee. About 40 minutes from start to finish, it's wholly satisfying.

I get recipes from Pillsbury. Some of them, as I've posted before, are interesting enough to try. The Nutty Chicken Breasts that involved the use of the crock pot were okay. They came up with this half-hour, start to finish Chicken Parmesana recipe. The unique, for me, ingredient was Panko. I know of it, but I'd never used it in cooking.

Now, I have friends who swear by Panko. This is Japanese breadcrumbs, for those not in the know. Panko is made from crustless bread, coarsely ground into bigger, airier flakes. It's designed to have a crispier crust on fried foods. Once the province of Oriental markets, I bought Progresso brand Italian flavored Panko so it's probably in either the Asian section or the place where bread crumbs or croutons are in your favorite market.

Essentially, you mixed Italian flavor Panko with parmesan, dredged the breasts in the mixture and browned them on both sides. (They recommended sticking the Panko and cheese in a plastic bag, adding the breasts and shaking them. Yet one more way to get rid of those horrible plastic bags I bought.) Then you added an 18 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce to the pan, spreading around the chicken, sprinkled the left over Panko over the chicken, topped it with mozzarella, covered the pan and cooked for 10 more minutes. While the chicken cooked, you make spaghetti. I had to have a vegetable so I microwaved the rest of a bag of peas.

To serve, put a serving of spaghetti on a plate, top with a chicken breast and spoon some of the spaghetti sauce over and around the chicken breast. I used two cans of tomato sauce that I'd seasoned with garlic and Italian seasonings.

The verdict? Well, I'll have to try the Panko in other dishes. When I make chicken parmesana with bread crumb coating, I think it's crispier. The Panko crust seemed soggy. I also don't feel the chicken really needs a coating. The best chicken parmesana I ever had was chicken breast sauted in olive oil, onion, garlic and Italian seasonings. Then the pan was deglazed with a half cup of white wine.

When all the bits were up off the bottom of the pan, a half cup of chicken broth was added to the pan, the chicken breasts returned and seasoned tomato sauce was poured over the breasts. It had chunks of tomato in the sauce which, usually, I don't like. The whole mixture was cooked, covered, for 15 minutes. Then mozzarella and parmesan cheese was placed on the breasts and the whole thing was covered and cooked for about 5 minutes or until the cheese melted. The chicken breast was served with pasta and a tossed salad. The tomato sauce was spooned over the pasta and the tomato chunks had been reduced to mush, almost sauce themselves. Oh heavenly day. But doing it that way took about twice as long as just rolling the breast in a breading and frying it.

This has made decent leftovers although the coating is really mushy when microwaved. I think I'll try Panko next on something that is simply baked and not covered, like fish. I'm all for expanding my culinary horizons and this might be a good fit.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


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