I'm kickin' it old school today with a red-sauce favorite: Chicken Parm. This version is an easier (and healthier) one than your classic breaded and fried version. But first...
|Crime-writing cook, Cleo Coyle, |
is author of the bestselling
Coffeehouse Mysteries and
Haunted Bookshop Mysteries
An Italian restaurant received four stars from The New York Times. Why big news? Because The Times hasn't given an Italian restaurant four stars since the 1970s.
"Great restaurants may start out that way," wrote the Times' chief restaurant critic (Sam Sifton). "But an extraordinary restaurant generally develops only over time, the product of prolonged artistic risk and managerial attention. An extraordinary restaurant uses the threat of failure first as a spur to improvement, then as a vision of unimaginable calamity. An extraordinary restaurant can transcend the identity of its owners or chef or concept..."
Yes, the man actually used the word "extraordinary" five times in the first two paragraphs. And the restaurant that earned this honor was...Del Posto.
Never been, you say? Well, how 'bout you and I go there right now for a *virtual* dinner? Just click the arrow in the window below. (FYI - I'm ordering the 100-layer lasagna; and, for dessert, the chocolate tree, of course...)
Now you may not have eaten at Del Posto, but odds are you've heard of two of it's three owners: Lidia Bastianich (of the PBS cooking show, Lidia's Italy) and Mario Batali, yes, Molto Mario of Food Network fame (who started out in NYC as the chef-owner of a little, bitty restaurant named Po in Greenwich Village, one that I was lucky enough to experience before Mario sold it and moved on to lusher culinary pastures).
The truth is I've never been to Del Posto, and after this review...well, as they say in Italian restaurants located in other parts of NYC: fugettaboutit! (At least right away.) Manhattan's obscenely rich and obnoxiously famous will now be lined up in an endless queue that won't have room for little old me. Do I care? Not in the least. And you shouldn't, either.
|A view from inside Otto.|
No dress code at Otto's (that's Batali's philosophy, BTW, and I do love him for it). Orgasmic Italian food (salumi to die for, artisan pizza, and homemade gelato). Inventive decor. (It's designed to look like an Italian railway station.)
The prices are quite reasonable for a night out in New York, and...it's fun. Elegance and pomp are a trip, I grant you, but you just can't beat fun.
So you see, there are always alternatives. Like the recipe I have for you today...
Of course, Chicken Parmesan is delicious made the old-style way: breading and frying the cutlets, covering them in cheese and sauce and baking. But today I'll give you an alternative to consider--a healthier one because there's no frying involved and instead of all that breading there's just a light layering of crushed garlic croutons.
Many of you may have seen some version of this casserole before (it's really nothing new) but for those who have not, I hope you'll enjoy the way I make it. The tricks to getting it absolutely right (in my opinion) are three:
(1) Use chicken tenders or slice your chicken breasts into strips so that the chicken will cook through (and become so tender as it poaches in the sauce that you can cut it with a spoon).
|Start with Caesar salad style|
garlic croutons and roughly crush them.
(3) Pre-bake the chicken before adding the cheese. This gives the very best results--beautifully cooked chicken and cheese that's melted to perfection. Otherwise, you'll either have undercooked chicken or cheese that's freakin' burned.
And now...the actual recipe!
To get this recipe in an easy PDF form that you can print, save, or share, click here.
|For the free PDF |
of this recipe, click here.
5-ounce package of garlic croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic (minced)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper (a light sprinking)
2 pounds chicken tenders (or breasts cut into strips)
5-6 fresh basil leaves (chiffonade)
2 cups of tomato sauce (jarred or a favorite recipe*)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*For a basic tomato sauce recipe from Chef Mario Batali, click here.
Step 1 – Prep oven and croutons: Preheat your oven to 350° F. Place garlic croutons in a plastic bag and beat with a meat hammer or heavy object until they’ve been crushed into smaller pieces. Do not beat these babies into breadcrumbs. But do break down any large, chunky pieces into smaller bits. Set aside.
Step 2 – Toss chicken with oil and spices: In a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish, drizzle the olive oil. Add the chicken tenders, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper, and stir well to coat the chicken pieces with the oil and spices. Spread the fresh basil on top of the chicken.
Step 3 – Add sauce and pre-bake: Pour the tomato sauce on top of the chicken, distributing evenly. Slide into a pre-heated 350º F. oven for 30 minutes. Remove. Do not turn off oven!
Step 4 – Add layers of cheese, croutons & cheese: Spread half of the mozzarella and Parmesan evenly over the sauce. Next sprinkle all of the crushed croutons onto the sauce. Finish with a sprinkling of the remainder of the two cheeses.