Chicken Parm 2.0
It won’t take you long to realize that this isn’t an “exact” recipe. Rather it’s a roadmap to deconstructing Chicken Parmesan so that chicken stays super crisp. The idea is to cook everything separately (including the cheese…you’ll see), then assemble it at the end. It’s no harder than the classic version, and may change your outlook on chicken parm forever.
1. Make The Tomato Sauce
Click here for a full recipe if you like. Or if you want to wing it, sauté a few cloves worth of minced garlic in olive oil until fragrant, no more than a minute, then add a can of crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and a small pinch of sugar. Add some crushed red pepper flakes if you like a little spice, and a few basil leaves if you have some lying around. Bring to a bubble, then let it simmer gently while you cook everything else.
2. Bread and Fry The Chicken Cutlets
Heat the broiler (this is for the melting the cheese later; you just want to be ready). Heat about an inch of neutral oil or olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. While it’s heating, set up three bowls: one with all-purpose flour, one with a beaten egg or two, and one with panko bread crumbs. Season all of them with salt and pepper. This is your dredging station. Season chicken cutlets (or chicken breasts pounded to uniform thickness) with salt and pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken first in the flour, then in the egg, and finally in the bread crumbs, pressing to help them adhere. When the oil is ready (a pinch of flour will sizzle immediately), add the cutlets to the skillet, working in batches if necessary. Cook the chicken, regulating the heat if necessary so that there is a constant sizzle but no burning. After 2 minutes, rotate the chicken (do not flip) so that the outside edges are moved toward the center and vice versa. When the pieces are nicely browned on one side, after about 3 minutes, turn them over. Cook on the second side until the cutlets are firm to the touch and the breadcrumb coating is brown and crisp, another 2 to 3 minutes. (To check for doneness, cut into a piece with a thin-bladed knife; the center should be white or slightly pink.) Transfer the cutlets to a wire rack or a baking sheet lined with paper towels, and sprinkle with salt while they’re still hot.
3. Melt The Cheese
In Mexico, you might call this Queso Fundido (click here for an example), but for our purposes we’ll just call it a skillet of melted cheese. Rub an overproof skillet (I like cast iron) with a little olive oil, then add a few big handfuls of grated mozzarella (the low-moisture kind that comes in a bag, not fresh mozz) and provolone. You want the cheese to come about halfway up the sides of the skillet (if the layer is too thin it will turn into a cracker). If you like garlic, toss the cheese with a little minced garlic. Put the skillet under the broiler and cook, checking frequently, until the cheese is bubbly and browned on top, and melted all the way through. If the cheese looks like it’s getting too dark on top before it fully melts, finish melting it in a 375 degree oven.
4. Assemble (Feel Free To Refer To The Photo Above)
If you like, slice the chicken cutlets into strips. Gather as many plates as there are people you want to feed. Spoon some tomato sauce onto each plate (I like a nice wide circle). While the cheese is still hot and bubbly, carefully scoop some out and spread it on top of the tomato sauce. Put the crispy chicken on top of the cheese, garnish with some basil and Parmesan if you like, and serve.