Thursday, September 4, 2008

Good hearty pub grub

Chicken parmigiana is good comfort food and it has legions of fans - there's even a website devoted to finding the best chicken parmigianas around Melbourne. Done well, chicken parma is satisfying pub grub, perfect with a pot, but done badly - well, you'd prefer to go hungry. It consists of a chicken schnitzel topped with a tomato-based sauce and smothered with melting cheese. Each of the separate components should be of good quality - the schnitzel should be well-cooked and not too oily, the tomato-based sauce not too acidic, and there should be not too much or too little cheese.

I must admit that I've always preferred chicken schnitzel, topped with tangy lemon juice, to chicken parma, although I don't mind a good chicken parma every now and then. Lately I've been perfecting my chicken schnitzel technique and one night Adam suggested that I turn it into chicken parma. It's a very easy dish to put together at home, particularly if you take some shortcuts (such as using a spicy tomato chutney rather than making your own tomato-based sauce). I've given approximate quantities for two people, so feel free to adjust according to number of guests and hunger.


Take a good-sized chicken breast (or two smaller chicken breasts) and cut in half. Lay the pieces on a chopping board, cover with plastic wrap and bash to a flat, even thickness using a meat mallet or heavy wooden rolling pin.

Lay out two plates and a bowl. On the first plate, mix together some plain flour with salt and pepper. Break an egg into the bowl, thin with 1 tablespoon of water, and whisk with a fork. Put a pile of fresh breadcrumbs (or bought breadcrumbs if you're struggling for time) on the third plate.

Take a piece of chicken, dredge in the seasoned flour and shake off excess. Dip into the egg-wash and then press into the pile of breadcrumbs, making sure it's evenly coated. Fill a heavy-based saucepan with about three centimetres worth of oil (canola, safflower or vegetable) and heat over a high heat (test if it's ready by dropping a cube of bread into the oil - it should sizzle and turn golden). Cook the schnitzels two at a time for a few minutes each side, then remove and stand vertically in a bowl lined with kitchen paper (sounds weird but this helps the oil drain off better).

Once all the schnitzels are cooked, lay them on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Top each schnitzel with spicy tomato chutney, or a tomato-based sauce, and scatter with grated mozzarella. Put into a warm oven (180 degrees) and cook for about 15 minutes.

I served the parmas with scalloped potatoes, which I made by thinly slicing two or three potatoes, cooking them in boiling water for five minutes, and then layering them in a baking dish with caramelised onions and cream seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. This should be covered tightly with foil and baked in the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.

No comments: