This is, for me, one of the very nicest things you can do with a chicken breast. The chicken is beaten flat with a heavy rolling pin, coated in crumbs and parmesan cheese, and sautéed gently in butter and olive oil until golden and crisp. It’s served on a bed of rich tomato sauce. I love this dish served with some buttered white rice – you can also serve it with pasta.
Parmigiana simply means ‘cooked with parmesan cheese’. If, like me, you find yourself cooking with a lot of parmesan, you should consider investing in a Microplane grater. I love these things (mine was a wedding present and gets used several times a week) – they grate your parmesan very finely, and with no risk to your knuckles. The fine grade is absolutely perfect for parmesan, and it’s also great for reducing garlic to a pulp, for zesting fruit and for grating nutmeg.
To serve four greedy people you’ll need:
1.5 kg fresh ripe tomatoes
3 large onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 handful fresh basil
1 handful fresh oregano
1 mild red chilli
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 large knob butter, plus extra to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 large chicken breasts
4 oz fresh breadcrumbs (about a cup for Americans)
4 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese (ditto)
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 large knob butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Begin by peeling and seeding the tomatoes. (This is very easy – use a knife to make a little cross in the skin at the bottom of the tomato, then pour over boiling water and leave for ten seconds. Fish the tomato out with a slotted spoon. You’ll find the skin will come away easily. Slice open to remove the seeds.) Chop the tomato flesh and set aside in a bowl.
Dice the onions and chop the garlic finely, and fry in a large knob of butter until translucent and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and finely chopped chilli to the saucepan and stir to combine everything. Bring to a very low simmer, and reduce (this will take more than an hour) to half its original volume or a little less. Bring the vinegar and sugar to the boil in a small pan and stir it into the sauce. Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper. Taste to check whether you need more salt or sugar. Add another knob of butter for a more mellow flavour if you like. Set the finished sauce aside.
Place the chicken between two sheets of cling film and beat it with the end of a rolling pin to flatten it out. Mix the paprika, salt, pepper, cheese and breadcrumbs well in a shallow dish. Dip the flattened chicken breast into the beaten egg, then dip the eggy chicken into the dish of cheesy crumbs until it is well coated. Set the sauce to reheat.
Heat the oil and butter in a non-stick frying pan until it sizzles, and drop in the breaded chicken pieces. Saute on each side for about 5 minutes, until golden and crisp. Spoon some of the sauce into the middle of a ring of rice on each plate and place a chicken breast on top of it. Dress with a bit of basil, if you’re feeling artistic. Serve immediately with a green salad dressed sharply.