My Italian sister-in-law sent me her recipe for Melanzane alla Parmigiana, which I have thus far failed to accurately reproduce – My version continues to be, though delicious, pretty heavy, while hers is light as a cloud and full of incredible fresh flavours. When I figure it out, I will post here. However, in the meantime, add some brined, breaded chicken into the mix and we have a pretty substantial Chicken Parmigiana (which means, incidentally, ‘in the style of Parma’, rather than anything to do with the ubiquitous cheese, although this recipe has plenty of that in it too).
(Title music found, not by Youtube but by the marvellous Vtuner Internet Radio which lets you listen to radio both online and ‘real’, from all over the world. You can tune into Blues radio from Gabon, or Blues radio from Malaysia, or probably some other types of radio that are not blues – but why would you do that? )
This will take a bit of time and assembly, but the end result is worth it. Good dish for a day off, serves 4 realistically or maybe 6 if you
‘re feeling parsimonious have some sides
- 2 chicken breasts, butterflied (see photo)
- 2 eggs
- Panko or similar breadcrumbs
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 large onion
- 1 large carrot
- 3-4 sticks celery
- 6-8 big tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tins Italian tomatoes or 1 tin and one jar of good quality pasta sauce
- dried thyme and oregano
- 2 medium aubergines
- Sea salt
- Olive oil
2-3 large handfuls grated cheddar or mozzarella
1 large handful grated parmesan
Salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180c. Slice the aubergines lengthwise, about 1/2cm thick. Lay them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake until browned and softened, about 30-40 minutes.
The sauce is a fairly standard thick red sauce for baked pasta. You’ll need an immersion blender, or you can leave it chunky if you prefer.
Dice the onions, carrots and celery. Saute in olive oil over medium heat for about ten minutes, until the veg have softened. Finely slice the garlic, add to the pot with the bay leaves and cover. Stir occasionally for twenty minutes. Meanwhile chop the tomatoes.
Add the tomatoes, saute another five minutes and then add the tinned tomatoes/sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about two hours or until the sauce is thick and delicious. It really is worth waiting that long. Taste and adjust seasoning, add a few pinches of dried herbs. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for ten minutes.
Remove the bay leaves (I nearly always forget this bit) and blend with an immersion blender until thick and smooth. If you have some, add a dash of double cream or creme fraiche.
When the sauce and the aubergine are done, set them aside. Grate the cheese and set that aside too, except for a handful of grated parmesan which you can mix with a plateful of panko breadcrumbs.
Butterfly and beat out the chicken. To make it more tender and juicy, even the next day, stick it in a ziplock bag covered with water and a tablespoon of salt. Leave in the fridge for half an hour, then continue as below.
Beat the eggs together in a shallow bowl, with the breadcrumbs and parmesan in another. Douse the chicken breasts liberally in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.
Fry in about 1cm depth of oil until golden brown. Don’t go any darker, because they will be cooked more in the oven. Drain on kitchen paper.
Now begin assembling the Parmigiana as shown in the incredibly helpful and professional gif shown
above okay, below too – layers of sauce, cheese, aubergine, chicken. If you have leftover breadcrumbs, scatter them on top with the majority of the cheese.
Bake for about 25 minutes at 180c, until the cheese is browned. Devour with fresh bread, salad and wine.