Dinner for Two: Skillet Chicken Parmesan

This is the sort of food that cures the January blues.

Otherwise known as that sad, sluggish feeling you get when spring is FOREVER away and you’re still five pounds heavier from Christmas.

Drake once said it’s a shitty time to be alive (or something?), and I couldn’t agree more. Between the short days, cold temps, and my appallingly pale complexion (send help), I’ve officially had it with winter. So considering I have WEEKS to go before any of the above improve, I decided some comfort food was in order. But since this year has been fairly well-behaved — more gym, less wine, yada yada — I didn’t want to go overboard. All I needed was a cozy little splurge that’s healthy enough for a weeknight while still tasting like a treat.

This skillet chicken parmesan was it.

Like all of my recipes I’ve made this several times now, and I swear it gets better with each installment. This recipe is unique to others in that it delivers all the flavor and texture of traditional chicken parm, but with barely half the guilt. That’s because I half fry, half bake the chicken inside a pre-heated skillet, rather than deep-fry it in oil. Doing so doesn’t just save on calories and fat, it results in a juicier, more tender cutlet. One that marries the crispy, crunchy taste of frying with the lighter, airer texture of baking.

In short, it’s amazing.

With a recipe like this every step is important, so try to follow it to a T. You start with two 4-6 oz chicken breasts that have been pounded thin — I did this myself, but your butcher can do it if need be. Dredge each breast in a whisked egg, then generously coat with breadcrumbs. Traditional recipes use flour prior to the egg bath, as well as add sharp cheese to the breadcrumbs. But I decided to skip both of these steps, seeing as doing so felt counterproductive to my “lightened-up” goals. Luckily, neither was missed one bit.

While you coat the chicken be sure to pre-heat the oven with a cast iron skillet inside. When you’re ready, coat the bottom of the skillet with a few teaspoons of olive oil, then add in the breaded chicken. Bake for 30 minutes, turning midway so that each cutlet is golden on either side. Once cooked, lastly smother with sauce and cheese, and before you know it you’re swimming in comfort food heaven.

Saying this is restaurant-quality is a pretty cocky statement to make, but I’m doing it anyway. The flavor, texture, and aroma are exactly what you’d expect of an old-school red sauce joint, and since I’m Italian I’m allowed to say that. As written I’ve obviously called for homemade sauce, but if you must you jarred sauce, I suppose it’s okay. I also suggest using the freshest full-fat mozzarella, because if you’re going to eat cheese, eat cheese, ya know?

And if you’re wondering whether this would be perfect for Valentine’s Day dinner, I’d say it totally would.

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients:

  • SAUCE:
  • 28 oz can peeled or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 tsps basil
  • 1 1/4 tsps oregano
  • 1 tsp crushed or minced garlic
  • several dashes salt
  • a few pinches black pepper
  • a few pinches granulated sugar
  • CHICKEN:
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 tsps oregano
  • 1 1/2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil + more for greasing
  • a pinch of salt & pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • (two) 4 – 6 oz boneless/skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • fresh basil to garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Begin by preparing the sauce. In a large saucepan combine all sauce ingredients over a medium-low flame, adjusting the seasonings as needed and mashing the tomatoes with a potato masher if using peeled tomatoes. Cover and simmer, occasionally stirring and mashing as appropriate.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 425F. Place a cast iron skillet or oven-proof skillet in the oven while heating.
  3. In a mixing bowl combine the breadcrumbs, oregano, EVOO, and salt & pepper, tossing until well combined — Transfer to a large plate. Next, working one at a time dip the chicken breast in egg, allowing the excess to run off. Dredge in the breadcrumbs until evenly coated on both sides and around the edges, then transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with the remaining breast.
  4. Remove the heated skillet from the oven and grease the bottom with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, swirling to coat. Transfer the breaded chicken breasts to the skillet, then immediately return to the oven and bake on the oven middle rack for 15 minutes. When ready, drizzle the top of each cutlet with a touch more olive oil, then flip and bake 15 minutes more. Once the chicken is nice and crisp, lastly spoon the sauce around and on top of the cutlets, then layer with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 5 – 10 minutes more until the cheese has completely melted, broiling for 1 – 2 minutes at the end if you prefer a browner finish. Cool slightly, then garnish with basil and serve!

I mean… !

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