Friday, January 28, 2011

A Lighter Version Of A Classic

I loved one of the things Mark Bittman said in his last Minimalist column in the Times on Wednesday. He was talking about how the column had given him the opportunity to cook with lots of different people over the years and how he always benefited from that:

I discovered that you never cook with someone else without learning something. In every case, there’s a two-way transfer of knowledge. If they know less than you do, you grow from teaching. If more, of course, you grow from learning.

Last week, I was definitely the student. For, I interviewed a radio host from these parts, Dennis Malloy, who is also an avid cook. His favorite dishes are old-timey, family style Italian recipes that are always satisfying and delicious when made from scratch.

Dennis just did a cooking demonstration and he mentioned a dish that really interested me. (He didn't actually cook this dish, he just talked about it.) He called it Chicken Parmesan and I think he said he learned about it from a friend in Italy.

He coats the thinly pounded chicken breasts with flour, egg and crumb (actually he may have left out the flour) and cooks them, but that wasn’t the exciting part. The cool thing was that he said he topped the chicken with an uncooked bruschetta-type tomato mixture and THAT WAS IT!

So I asked him where the Parm was. He CALLED it Chicken Parm and so WHERE was the cheese? Oh, he said, I guess you grate a little over at the end. I liked that it was kind of an afterthought.

The great thing was the idea of a beautifully cooked chicken cutlet with just a fresh, lovely tomato topping. It’s the complete opposite of a gloppy, over-sauced, mozzarella-laden bit of chicken, which sounded so good to me.

Dennis, thank you for such a great idea. THIS is what I came up with.

My Version Of Dennis Malloy’s Version Of Chicken Parmesan (serves 2ish)

Printable recipe here.

Fresh Tomato Topping:

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 large handful of parsley, chopped

½ medium red onion, chopped finely

1 tbl. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

A scant 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

For Chicken:

4 thinly pounded chicken breasts (I use 1 package of Bell and Evans "Italian style" chicken breasts)

1 cup flour

2 eggs beaten with 2 tsps. water

3 to 4 pieces whole wheat bread, made into crumbs in the food processor

3 to 4 tbls. olive oil for frying

To serve:

½ box thin spaghetti, cooked

2 tbls. olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, salt and parsley

8 pitted Kalamata olives

a bit of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

extra chopped parsley, if desired, for garnish

For Fresh Tomato Topping, cut each grape tomato into quarters lengthwise and then each piece into thirds. (It sounds fussy, but it’s so much more attractive to have even pieces.) Place in non-reactive bowl with remaining topping ingredients. Leave at room temperature until ready to use, up to 2 hours.

If using Bell and Evans chicken, cut each chicken breast piece in half lengthwise. You should have 4 pieces. Flour, egg and crumb each piece and place on a baking sheet which has been lined with wax paper. Refrigerate, uncovered, until ready to cook.

Heat 3 tbls. olive oil in 12 inch sauté pan over medium heat. Fry chicken breasts about 3 minutes about 3 minutes on each side until browned nicely. Add additional tablespoon of oil for second side, if necessary.

For spaghetti, heat olive oil with 2 cloves of minced garlic until fragrant. Remove garlic. Add spaghetti and toss until well coated. Add salt to taste and parsley.

Place one portion of spaghetti on dinner plate. Top with one or two cooked chicken breasts and tomato topping. Place 4 olives around each plate. Sprinkle over Parmesan cheese and garnish with extra chopped parsley if desired.


Sheila said...

Nice! I love that this recipe is MSPI (milk soy protein intolerant) friendly! I can make it!!! And I'm going to!!!!!!

What do you mean 1 package of Italian Style Chicken Breasts? Like its already done for you and you just buy them already seasoned at the store? If so, how could I do this from scratch to keep out all the allergy stuff?


Sue said...

I'm so glad you asked me that! For this recipe I use Bell and Evans boneless and skinless chicken breasts which have been pounded thin. I'm pretty sure they call them Italian Style. The next time I'm in the store I'll check. But there's no seasoning on them, they're just thin. (I changed the recipe to make it clearer, I hope.)

Lys said...

Love this idea!!! Great recipe and will have to put this on the menu for the upcoming week (in between the snowhell)

Emily said...

Wow. I don't even know what to say. That looks GOOD, Sue. I'm craving this style of chicken parm now. It looks so fresh and delicious.

Sue said...

Thanks, Lys,
Yeah this snow is getting SO OLD.

You said it JUST right! Thanks!!!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I have an Italian cookbook that has a recipe similar to this. You add some rosemary to the crumb mix and then top it with both tomatoes and argula. Big heavy cheesy fried dishes have their place, but sometimes it's nice to savor something a bit lighter and cleaner.