I admit I am no real expert when it comes to any type of Italian cooking. Since I don’t eat cheese or pasta myself I am hard one to ask to judge whether the dish is good or not so I have to rely on my pasta and cheese eaters Sean and Michelle to let me know whether the dish is worth making again or not. I had seen this recipe for chicken Parmesan on the Internet from Serious Eats that says it is the best chicken Parmesan recipe out there and was curious about it. What makes this recipe better than any other. in my opinion, chicken Parmesan is a pretty basic dish on its own that anyone can make pretty successfully, so what made this one stand out? The difference with this seems to lay in the use of a buttermilk brine for the chicken and a whole lot of Parmesan cheese in the breading, along with some buttermilk in the breading to change things up. The results were pretty impressive.
The Best Chicken Parmesan
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 3/4 cups buttermilk, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 loaf crusty Italian bread, crust removed, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 quart tomato sauce, homemade or your favorite store-bought brand
10 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, basil or a mix of herbs
With a sharp knife, split the chicken breasts in half horizontally. Working with one piece at a time, place the chicken inside a plastic zipper-lock bag and pound the chicken with a meat pounder or the bottom of a heavy skillet until the chicken is an even thickness of about 1/4-inch. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and repeat the process until all of the chicken pieces have been pounded.
Add 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk and the minced garlic to the bowl with the chicken. Season with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Turn the chicken with your hands until the salt, pepper and garlic are evenly incorporated and all of the chicken is coated in the buttermilk mixture. Transfer the contents of the bowl to a large zipper-lock bag, press the air out of the bag and seal the bag. Refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Meanwhile, place the Italian bread slices on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Leave out the bread on a counter for at least 4 hours and up to overnight until it is mostly dried. The next day, break the bread into rough pieces and combine the bread with 4 ounces of Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Season the mixture with black pepper. Process the bread until it is finely ground, about 20 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large shallow bowl or pie plate.
Place the flour in a second shallow bowl or pie plate. Whisk the eggs, 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk and 1 tablespoon of the flour in a third pie plate. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk over the breadcrumb/Parmesan cheese mixture and incorporate it with your fingertips. The mixture should be mealy, but hold together in clumps if you squeeze it together with your hands.
Working with one piece of chicken at a time, remove a piece of chicken from the bag and add it to the flour. Turn the chicken to coat it, shaking off any excess, and then add it to the egg mixture. Turn the chicken to coat it, letting the excess egg mixture drip off, and then add it to the breadcrumb mixture. Turn the chicken to coat it, piling crumbs on top of the piece and pressing down firmly so a thick layer of breadcrumbs adheres to the chicken piece. Transfer the coated chicken to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and repeat the process with the remaining chicken breast pieces.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the sauce in a medium saucepan and heat it over low heat, stirring occasionally until it is barely simmering. Remove the sauce from the heat and set it aside.
Heat the vegetable or canola oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat until the oil registers 375 to 400 degrees on an instant-read or deep-frying thermometer. Working in batches so you do not crowd the skillet, carefully add the chicken pieces by lowering the cutlets away from you into the oil. Add as many cutlets as will fit in one layer (depending on the size of your skillet, this can be anywhere from 2 to 4 pieces). Cook, swirling the pan gently and using a thin flexible spatula to loosen the chicken if it sticks, until the chicken is golden brown and crisp on the bottom side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a thin metal spatula and a fork, carefully flip the chicken and cook until it is golden brown on the second side, about another 2 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and repeat the process with the remaining chicken pieces.
Spoon 1/3 of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a casserole or oven-safe serving dish. Shingle the chicken pieces on top of the sauce. Top the chicken with more sauce, forming a line down the center. Combine the mozzarella cheese and the remaining 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese in a large bowl and toss to coat. Lay the cheese mixture over the chicken in a straight line down the center. Transfer the dish to the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and immediately grate fresh Parmesan cheese on top. Allow the dish to rest for about 3 minutes, top with the chopped herbs and serve immediately.
I did try a little bit of the chicken and I have to immediate using the buttermilk brine does improve the overall flavor and the tenderness of the chicken. Sean and Michelle both really enjoyed the breading on the chicken and the cheese combination of the mozzarella and the Parmesan was just right for the meal. As I said, I am not an eater of dishes like this, so I did have a piece of chicken I kept separate with just the breading and I thought it was great. They both enjoyed the meal over pasta and I served it alongside of the onion focaccia bread I had made. I would certainly do this recipe again, though you do need to plan this one ahead to do the brining if you want the taste difference.
That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!