Most of my chicken parmesan experiences have been bad ones. You probably know where this is headed—the oversized portions of heavily breaded chicken topped with boring tomato sauces and layer upon layer of greasy cheese.
It's an Americanized version of Eggplant Parmesan, and guess which one I prefer? But it's impossible to stay mad at this recipe from Cooks Illustrated. It's well-proportioned, light on the grease, and clean in flavor. It's easily the best chicken parmesan I've ever had.
The great trick here is that instead of pounding the hell out of large chicken breast, Cooks Illustrated recommends slicing the chicken breast in half horizontally. This smaller portion allows you to get up from the table without hating yourself.
The recipe requires extreme multitasking. You'll boil, broil, sauté, and shallow fry, but it should all be over in 30 minutes or so. Just have everything prepared—all the pans, pots, and wire racks ready to go, and it's a relative breeze. It looks like a lot of instructions, but the process is simple and straightforward. And the result can't be denied.
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 2 large boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each), tenderloins removed
- 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine
- Salt and black pepper
First, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Then start with the sauce. Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil into a pot set over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Dump in the tomatoes, along with the dried basil, dried oregano, sugar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it has thickened up nicely.
While the sauce is cooking, slice each chicken breast in half horizontally, so you end up with four roughly 4-ounce portions of chicken. Each one should be about 1/4-inch thick.
Crack the egg into a small pie pan or baking dish, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and beat until combined. In another small pie pan or baking dish, combine the bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few cracks of pepper.
Dip one of the chicken cutlet into the beaten, and then into the bread crumbs. Toss to coat. Place it on a wire rack set over a large pan, and repeat process with other cutlets.
Preheat the broiler. Pour the rest of the olive oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil just starts to shimmer, add the cutlets. They should all fit in a single layer. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, flipping halfway through. Wash the rack while you cook the cutlets, and dry. Set the cooked cutlets on the cleaned wire rack.
Add the pasta along with 2 teaspoons of salt to the boiling water. Cook according to the directions on the box. Drain when done and set aside.
Top each cutlet with a quarter of the mozzarella and parmesan. Place wire rack set over the pan under the broiler, about 4 to 5 inches from the top, and broil for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely browned and bubbly.
Divide the spaghetti into four portions and plate. Top each with a cutlet and a generous helping of the sauce. Serve.