When you're about to go on vacation, you find yourself trying to empty out the fridge. We're leaving on Saturday morning to fly to the midwest, so I challenged myself to make something interesting and tasty out of what we happened to have on hand. The result was an improvised version of chicken parmesan. We ate ours with some lovely soft bread (perfect for sopping up the marinara sauce), but if you're a more civilized person you might want to serve it with a vegetable of sorts.
I prefer not to bread my chicken parmesan, to make the dish a little bit healthier. But don't worry, it still comes out browned, juicy and delicious. Also, if you happen to have mozzarella around, I'd throw about half a cup on before the parmesan, and then bake it. We were fresh out of mozzarella in our house, so this is a slightly less cheesy chicken parmesan. This is a very fudge-able recipe, folks, so don't feel constrained by my amounts. This is just the way I recommend it, and I won't take it personally if you adjust some of the numbers.
Improvised Chicken Parmesan
for the marinara sauce:
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 bay leaf
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of canned crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry red wine (I used Syrah)
for the chicken:
3 tablespoons EVOO
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
3/4 lb. chicken breast tenders, or chicken breast cutlets
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan (not the pre-grated stuff please!)
1. Start with the marinara sauce. Heat EVOO in a heavy medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for about 3 minutes, until they start to soften. Add garlic, stir and cook 1 minute. Add the bay leaf and celery, and cook until the celery is starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Stir. When the sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat to medium-low and cover partially. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add the wine. Stir and cook for an additional 10 minutes or so, until it starts to smell amazing. (And it will). Fish out the bay leaf and discard.
3. In a shallow dish or wide bowl, create herb oil for coating the chicken cutlets by pouring in the EVOO, rosemary, parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Mix and then add the chicken, coating thoroughly with the herb oil.
4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown it only, (do not cook all the way through), about one minute each side. Put it in a shallow baking dish. (Or leave it in the skillet if yours is oven-safe). Spoon the marinara over the chicken, surrounding it on all sides. Top with the cheese and bake for 8 minutes, until cheese is brown and bubbly, and chicken is cooked through.