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June 18, 2007 / Tony

Chicken Parmigiana

My food hero is Alton Brown and I make a point to make his recipes when I can.  So I made his Pantry-Friendly Tomato Sauce.  Of course, I made some modifications.  In fact, I had to sort of wing it since I didn’t have the recipe right in front of me.  So, I started by sweating the onion and carrots, with salt of course.  Then, I added the drained canned whole tomatoes and stuck them under the broiler so they could roast.  This actually took awhile-longer than I expected.  At the same time, I took the juice from the canned tomatoes, mixed it with some salt, pepper, sherry, basil and thyme (both dried), and then reduced it by half.  After the tomatoes were roasted, I deglazed the pan with some white wine (yes a cheapie, 3 buck chuck).  Then, everything came together and went into the food processor.  It came out chunky (small chunks) because there wasn’t really enough liquid left to make a smooth puree (which was what I was after).  But, I hate adding water to tomato sauce, so I just went with it-it was still a very passable tomato sauce.  It was pleasantly acidic and perhaps could have used just a little bit more sweetness (some sugar maybe).  I may be more aggressive with the onions next time, to try to give the sauce a little less tomato flavor.  If I decide to make it again, I seem to like my other tomato sauce recipes better (please see a future post). 

So the sauce was pretty good.  The pasta was spaghetti, of course.  But the real key to Chicken Parmagiana is the chicken.  I like to brine my chicken before breading and I did it.  2 cups of water with about 3 T of kosher salt and 2 T of sugar makes a nice brine, even if all of the salt and sugar do not dissolve.  Maybe I’ll cut back a little next time.  So the chicken was in there about an hour, I probably could have cut that time in half but I kept getting interrupted by the phone while I was cooking.  So, after brining, it was time to pound and bread.  I like my chicken about 5/8 of an inch thick.  Too thin and I think you lose any sense of meatiness chicken can give.  Too thick and the breading will burn before the inside is done unless you do a mixed cooking method of pan-frying and oven-roasting.  But then you’re extending the cooking time unnecessarily without adding any real benefit, especially in the crispness department, which is really the point of breading the chicken anyway.  When I prepped my breading ingredients, however, I found I didn’t have an egg!  Which meant that I could really only do one of the breading steps-the last one with panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  I just had to skip the flour and the egg wash.  Surprisingly, the chicken was still plenty crispy although I am sure I would have had a better crust with all three steps in place.  After that, it just a matter of putting some tomato sauce on the chicken as well as some shredded mozzarella cheese.  A few minutes under the broiler and bingo, you have Chicken Parmagiana. 

Overall, good but not great but considering the obstacles of the night, not a bad effort at all. 

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