How to Make Chicken Parmesan
Also Known as Chicken Parmigiana or Pollo Alla Parmigiana
One of the most popular Italian dishes in America, Chicken Parmesan is a variation of the classic southern Italian dish, Eggplant Parmigiana. Although the term “parmigiana” comes from the northern Italian city of Parma, eggplant parmigiana originated in southern Italy. Some say Campania, other Sicily.
Where Does the Name Chicken Parmesan Come From?
What I find interesting is how most Americans, including myself, have thought the dish was named for Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, one of the ingredients often used in preparing it.
If you do a search for Chicken Parmesan you will find dozens of variations, some using Parmesan, some Pecorino, other Mozzarella. One of my favorite chefs, Ricco DeLuca taught me to use Meunster cheese and it is my favorite version.
Another theory about how Parmigiana got its name is described by Anna Pomar in her book La Cucina Tradizionale Siciliana. She says Parmigiana “is the Italianization of the Sicilian dialectal word “parmiciana”, which refers to the slats of wood which compose the central part of a shutter and overlap in the same manner as the slices of eggplant in the dish.”
What Cheese to Use?
This recipe calls for my Basic Tomato Sauce and shows why it is an essential part of my cooking. As you will see, my basic tomato sauce is great as a base for numerous pasta sauces, but it is also an essential ingredient to my chicken Parmesan recipe.
The traditional method for making this dish is to coat the chicken with grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs, hence the name. But most of us make a different version that could be called "Chicken Mozzarella" where the chicken is coated with bread crumbs, topped with Mozzarella cheese and a basic tomato sauce, then finished with some grated Parmesan cheese.
Both cheeses are delicious but completely different in texture and taste. Parmesan is a hard, dry cheese made from cow’s milk and has a rich, sharp flavor. There are Parmesan cheeses made all over the world but the best is Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Although more expensive, this granular textured cheese whose processing method hasn't changed in the last 700 years is usually aged for 2 years.
Two reasons why Parmigiano-Reggiano has better taste and consistency than other Parmesan cheeses;
- the flavor of the milk comes from cows on strictly controlled diets, and
- the strict production codes dating back centuries.
Mozzarella (maht-suh-REHL-lah) is a soft white cheese with a mild flavor typically made from cow’s milk. It came from southern Italy where it was originally made from water buffalo milk.
If you are lucky enough to find real buffalo mozzarella in your local market, try it. Although expensive, it’s like eating ice cream compared to frozen yogurt.
Chicken Parmesan Recipe
- Whisk the eggs and water together in one bowl and stir the Parmesan cheese into the breadcrumbs in another bowl.
- Keeping one hand for dry ingredients and the other for wet ingredients, dredge the breasts in the flour coating both sides, then the egg/water mixture, and then the Parmesan/breadcrumb mixture.
- Sauté the breasts in the olive oil for one minute on each side in an ovenproof sauté pan until the breasts are golden brown. Don’t over crowd the pan or your chicken breasts will steam and not sauté properly. (If you don’t have an oven proof sauté (frying) pan, sauté in your pan and transfer to a casserole dish.
- Remove from heat, cover the breasts with basic tomato sauce and top with slices of mozzarella.
- Cook in oven until the chicken is done approximately 10 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts.
- Remove from oven and serve.