Not unlike the Europeans who stroll their neighborhood markets each day for the freshest seasonal ingredients I, too, often allow the grocery store to talk to me, and help me determine what to eat.
I’m not as savvy as the gourmet who eats strawberries only in the spring or watermelon strictly in the summer, but I do attempt to listen to what the bins and aisles are telling me. Last week, the specialty cheese section spoke up.
For background, I detest shopping for clothes and gifts but adore buying groceries each week. Just as corn eaters differ (do you nibble in rows or in circles?), so do the methods used by people to attack a supermarket.
I happen to be a left-to-right kind of gal. At my local market on Taft Hill and Elizabeth, a shopping excursion means starting with hair care and cleaning supplies and working my way toward the deli. I usually make a final loop to grab milk at the end.
It was during this favored routine I came across a plastic container packed with these gorgeous little mozzarella balls. My mind wandered. Would it be salad Caprese, that colorful and incredibly flavorful marriage of mozzarella, basil and tomatoes? Or, something heartier, like chicken parmesan (parmigiano, if you’re in Italy)?
If I chose the former, the newsroom adviser who has been nagging me to get off the “comfort food” run would be thrilled. The latter, I reasoned, however, wasn’t exactly in the same ballpark as meatloaf and mashed or mac and cheese and so, I cooked.
I can’t claim this recipe as an age-old family secret. Sure, mom made it occasionally but the reality is that I have a bend for chicken and ALWAYS seem to order this when eating out at “Italian” restaurant chains – think gardens and olives.
Recipes for chicken parmesan vary with many using both mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Some, though, can be made very successfully with just the right amount of fresh mozzarella, and this was my plan.
In addition to the cheese, one only needs a supply of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, homemade or jarred marinara (I like the regionally-produced Blue Parrot tomato sauce) and your favorite pasta.
The lesser – but equally important – ingredients include Italian seasoning and garlic salt. Further, I always keep Italian breadcrumbs in my pantry because they are versatile and have more flavor than traditional breadcrumbs (homemade ones are excellent).
To assemble it, I poured the breadcrumbs on a plate, added garlic salt and Italian seasoning to the mix and then I cracked an egg into a separate bowl.
I dipped the chicken into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs, and browned it on my stove. In a normal environment, I would have laid the browned chicken into my Pyrex pan and covered in tomato sauce and baked, adding the cheese toward the end to melt and bubble up into perfection.
But, since my old pal Aubrey was going to join me and I know she doesn’t like tomato sauce, I chose to cook my chicken in a pan on the stove first and then finish it in the oven with cheese but without sauce. After Aubrey took her portion I tossed the sauce in with my linguini and served the chicken with melted cheese on top.
Two colleagues, Jeremy and Justin, also joined us. As we dined, we debated whether to watch the show with the fashion models or a hockey game. With chicken parmesan on the plate, it was an easy call.
We opted to watch cranky, rail-thin women bitch and whine and prepared to dish up Jeremy’s tiramisu, which turned out to be the perfect finish to the evening.
L’Chaim and B’Tay Avon (To Life and Eat Well).
Staff writer Liz Sunshine can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the individual author and not necessarily those of the Collegian.
Chicken Parmesan (serves four)
4 chicken breasts
2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 Tablespoon garlic salt
Fresh mozzarella (to cover chicken)
1 jar tomato sauce (I prefer Blue Parrot)
On a plate combine breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and garlic salt. In a bowl beat the egg. Dredge chicken in egg and then breadcrumb mixture.
Brown both sides of chicken in a non-stick pan. Heat oven to 350 degrees and place browned chicken in Pyrex and cover with tomato sauce. Cook in oven for 25 minutes.
Cook pasta according to directions on the package.
Serve and enjoy!