Chicken Parmesan – Chicken Parmigiana – Pollo alla Parmigiana
One of the most popular Italian dishes in America, Chicken Parmigiana 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.
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.”
No matter where it obtained its name, this version of Chicken Parmigiana from Chef Dawn Thomas is a good one.
Chicken Parmigiana (Pollo alla Parmigiana)
- 4 chicken breasts or 2 whole chicken breasts cut in half
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ⅓ cup Parmigiano - Reggiano cheese
- 2 eggs
- salt & pepper to taste
- 4 cups tomato sauce
- vegetable or grape seed oil
- 6 ounces mozzarella cheese grated
Heat the Tomato Sauce
- Pour the tomato sauce into a medium pot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. By preheating the tomato sauce, this allows the dish to cook quickly in the oven, which prevents the chicken from being overcooked. Once it comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and set aside while you fry the chicken.
Shallow Fry the Chicken Breasts
- In a large, nonstick fry pan add ⅛ inch of oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Test the oil by adding a breadcrumb to see if it sizzles. If the breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden, the oil is ready.
- Place the pieces of chicken into the pan facing away from you in case the oil splatters. Once the underside is nice and golden, gently turn over. Continue to cook until golden on the other side. This should only take about two minutes per side. The chicken doesn’t need to be cooked all the way through, as it will finish baking in the oven later.
- Transfer the chicken to a cooling rack that is resting over a baking tray. Cook the second batch, making sure that the oil is still hot enough and that the chicken sizzles nicely. Once all of the chicken is fried, you can begin assembling.
Assemble the Dish & Bake
- Cover the base of a large baking dish (9" x 11" - inches) with about 2 to 3 cups of the tomato sauce. The layer of sauce should be about ½" - inch high.
- Place the pieces of chicken into the sauce, shuffling them around a bit if needed to lay somewhat flat.
- Next, spoon a couple of tablespoons of the sauce onto each piece, followed by a bit of grated cheese.
- Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until cooked and heated through. If desired, you can turn on the broiler for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking to slightly brown the cheese.