When I get sick, I get sick with a vengeance. I mean, *everything* goes wrong at the same time. I catch the flu, develop an infection, do something to my back, can’t shake a cough, and suffer from everything short of a flesh-eating disease over the span of 2 or 3 successive weeks – and my doctors just shrug and intimate hypochondria. Whatevs. My molting period seems to be over finally, and I walked back into Whole Foods this morning with a feeling of purpose. I asked the husbandman what he wanted, and – true to self – he said “pasta”. I stewed that idea in the brain for a few minutes, until I remembered something friend Steph L said she’d be enjoying for her dinner last night: chicken parm. There is nothing like a good chicken parmesan, and nothing harder to find IMHO. So, Lolita that I be, I decided to reinvent it my way. Witness: a semi-deconstructed chicken parmesan — pounded thin pan-crunchy cutlets, layered with prosciutto and provolone and homemade chunky pasta sauce, served with aglio alio al dente angel hair pasta. Unctuous, cheesy, vegetal, tender, and rich – just what I needed to re-enrich my healing self.
Pollo alla Parmigiana
1 large can crushed tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
1 small onion
2 stalks celery
1/4 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter, divided
3/4 lb chicken breast
6 slices prosciutto americano
8 slices provolone cheese
angel hair pasta
6 cloves garlic
flour, panko breadcrumbs, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried parsley, sea salt, black pepper, EVOO
Saute the veg in EVOO in a large pan until translucent, then add your crushed tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir well, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer , cover, and cook for at least 45 minutes — but longer is good, too. I think mine went for almost 90 minutes; I was cooking casually.
I was a little disappointed by Whole Foods’s so-called chicken cutlets. I paid at least $.50 more a pound based on the sign, assuming I’d get properly thinly sliced chicken breast. Instead, I received a few sloppily butterflied chicken breasts, which I could have done myself. Next time, I’ll go to Reliable Market, where they thin slice their poultry and meats partially frozen, into true super-thin cutlets, which require no pounding. These I had to pound.
And here’s how I do it: after cutting the butterflied portion off the main breast, I tenderized and flattened each piece of chicken by laying three at a time into a large gallon zipper back, which I then set inside a folded dishcloth. Using my sharpening steel, and turning the bag 90° every few whacks, I smack the crap out of my protein until it’s as flat as I can get it. The next three pictures illustrate the trifecta of pan-searing.
Without crowding the pan, saute all the dredged cutlets in shifts ( I was able to do 2 at a time) for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until a perfect golden brown. Set aside on some foil in a single layer and keep warm.
Layers of tender chicken, unctuous prosciutto, thick rich tomato sauce, and stretchy provolone cheese, served alongside a nest of garlicky buttered pasta: perfection on a plate. The dull edge of my fork effortlessly glides through my tower of poultry parmesan, and I deftly spin a shroud of spaghetti and chunky saucy on its tine before I lift it, licking lips, to my anticipating mouth. The meal is both filling and light, and in both ways absolutely satisfying. This may be the best chicken parm I’ve ever made – or ever ate. And now that I’ve codified the recipe, I can look forward to enjoying — and maybe improving upon it – in the future…