Cooktop Cove: Grab some plastic wrap and then follow these 6 tips to cook the best chicken Parmesan
By Kate Elliott
Chicken Parmesan is one of those dishes that's on the menu of most restaurants. But depending on where you go, it can be one of the most forgettable or one of the most divine entrees you've ever tasted. This is because everyone has their own way of making chicken Parmesan, and some ways are better than others. In reality, few things can really muck up a good chicken Parm.
If you want to make this delectable Italian comfort dish at home, there's no reason why you shouldn't. It's easy enough to make in your own kitchen and certainly a lot cheaper than going out to an Italian restaurant to get the delicious entree. So when you want to do it, just make sure you follow these tips to avoid getting all bungled up in the whole chicken Parmesan debacle.
1. Pound it in plastic wrap
Chicken breasts need to be pounded before they can be turned into beautiful chicken Parmesan; there's really no way around it. Without pounding the chicken, it will be uneven, and one end of it will cook way faster than the other end -- not to mention that there'll be a huge hunk of chicken instead of the nice flat piece you want.
Before pounding those chicken breasts, lay them between sheets of plastic wrap. Not only will this prevent the mess from juices that can spurt out while you're pounding the meat, but it will also prevent the meat from sticking to the mallet, rolling pin or other device you use for flattening.
2. Season the breading
Of course, you also need to bread the chicken breasts before they can be turned into the classic Italian dish. A typical breading station includes flour for first dredging the breasts, an egg wash to dip the breasts in next, and then breading to coat the meat. During this step of making chicken Parmesan, the breading is the most important, as it's the most flavorful part of the process.
When creating your breading, season the bread crumbs with dried Italian seasoning such as basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. It's also essential to include the signature Parmesan cheese in the mix. Fresh is best, but if all you have is pre-grated, that will work, too.
3. Add buttermilk to the egg wash
While we're on the subject of the breading station, let's talk about that egg wash. You could use just a few eggs and a few tablespoons of water to make a perfectly good wash. But if you want to have super crispy, extra delicious chicken Parmesan, use buttermilk instead of water in the egg wash. It will make it thicker, giving those bread crumbs more to cling to and making it even crispier and yummier!
4. Fry the chicken
After breading the chicken, too many people merely stick it into a hot oven to roast. That's fine, and it will get the job done. But again, if it's the crispiest chicken you're after, there's no other way to go than to deep-fry it. There's something all that piping hot oil can deliver to the table that a simple bake just can't. Bring a deep fryer or a pot of oil to a temperature of about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the chicken breasts, making sure you don't overcrowd the pot, and cook in batches if you need to. Fry for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, and then drain on paper towels. Any excess oil left on the breading will moisten it and make it soggy.
5. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
After frying, the chicken will need to be topped with cheese and popped into the oven so the cheese can melt. But while most people just pile the chicken high with mozzarella, it's important to include Parmesan cheese in the mix too. Remember, it is chicken Parmesan and while Parmesan cheese is already in the breading, you want it to really shine through. So, add a bit to the mozzarella cheese too, and no one will question what kind of dish you're serving.
6. Get the sauce just right
OK, so homemade sauce is going to taste the best, but sometimes you've gotta do what you've gotta do. Sometimes that means using jarred sauce, and it's perfectly alright to do so. The biggest mistake you can make is to spoon sauce only on top of the chicken breasts. Have you ever noticed that when you order chicken Parmesan from a restaurant, it's smothered and completely covered in sauce? That's hard to achieve when you're just putting a dollop of it on top of the meat. So, when preparing the chicken breasts for the oven, spread a thin layer of sauce out first, place the chicken on top, and then top them with more sauce and the cheese. Make sure you leave some of the chicken edges sticking out. After all, you want those crispy bits to give it texture.
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