Thursday, March 29, 2012

Giving the gift of chicken parm

I told you before that it's tradition in our house, as it may be for you, to make "special request" dinners for birthdays, usually shared with all family available the Sunday before or after the big day.

This month we celebrated our daughter's special day. I asked the birthday girl what she'd like for her dinner. She gave me a wonderful compliment. She said she'd let me choose because she loves everything I make! How sweet she is! Sweet Melissa.

So I actually let hubby pick the birthday girl's dinner. Last I told you we enjoyed Birthday Lasagna for hubby's special day, so he was up for something different for daughter number one's family celebration. This time hubby chose chicken parmigiana. Good choice, hubby! It was time for CP in our rotation.

So the menu was simple and Italian. Mmmm, peasant food, my favorite. Antipasto (before the meal) included homemade lonzino (dry-cured pork loin), toscana cheese with rosemary and olive oil, blueberry chevre, assorted crackers, and the usual veggie mix. Some good wine accompanied the spread.

This family can eat and we do like to snack while we cook. It's always a good time standing around the kitchen table, chomping on some great bites while catching up, everyone laughing and being silly, loud family that we are.

So here's what I whipped up for my daughter's birthday while everyone noshed on the starters.

Classic birthday chicken parm hits the spot.

Piles of spaghetti with my favorite gravy.

Birthday Chicken Parmigiana 

8 chicken breasts, cut 1/2 inch thick
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, grated
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 tblsp. olive oil
8 oz. blended tomatoes or My Favorite Gravy (what Italian-Americans call tomato sauce)
1/3 cup Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
8 1-oz. slices mozzarella cheese

First, I like to pound the chicken with a mallet to be sure all pieces are the same thickness to ensure even cooking. And it's fun to beat the chicken, too. Use wax paper to protect yourself from squirting chicken juices. And change the wax paper frequently to avoid splatters as you pound holes.

Now you're ready to assemble the cutlets. Dip chicken breasts in beaten egg mixture. Combine bread crumbs, grated cheese, salt, pepper, and oregano. Coat chicken with breading mixture. Sauté chicken slices until lightly browned in a pan with olive oil. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish or on a cookie sheet. Pour gravy (tomato sauce) over chicken cutlets and sprinkle with grated cheese. Top each cutlet with a slice of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Serve over lightly buttered spaghetti or drench in My Favorite Gravy.

Serves 8.

This is the basic recipe, but don't hesitate to double if you have more guests. I always make more anyway, so we have leftovers.

Mediterranean greens with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and pignoli, along with some crusty bread and good wine rounded out the meal.

And, of course, there was a birthday cake, recipe soon to follow.

For now, don't forget to check out My Favorite Gravy recipe. It's a keeper with a secret ingredient no one will guess.

So if there's a birthday or special dinner on the horizon, give the gift of chicken parm. It's a good thing. It's a gift your special birthday celebrant won't return. 

And let me know what birthday dinner traditions you share with your family. I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time, yours in fun, family, and cooking...Therese

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