The secret to making rustic, flavorful chicken parmesan, according to a golf-club chef
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When it comes to comfort food, plenty of classic Italian dishes fit the mold; however, chicken parmesan may be the most popular. At The Hills Country Club in Austin, Texas, Executive Sous Chef Brian Findley serves up his take on the dish, which has quickly become a member favorite. Despite the dish’s name, Findley asserts that the most important component isn’t the pan-fried chicken or the cheese. Instead, it’s all about the sauce; and to make an exceptional marinara, Chef Findley insists on only using San Marzano tomatoes.
“I try to make it as simple as possible,” he says of the sauce, which he makes using only five ingredients — tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, and olive oil. “The olive oil helps to cut the acidity,” Findley explains, “but everything is really there to highlight the flavor of the tomatoes.”
Below, Chef Findley shares his recipe for the club’s chicken parm, which includes the directions for his crowd-pleasing marinara sauce. When you attempt this dish at home, don’t try to be elegant. The rustic nature of the dish is part of its charm. “The goal of the marinara is to be chunky with the sliced garlic, hand-torn basil leaves, and hand-crushed tomatoes,” he says. “The idea is that it looks and tastes like an old Italian grandma made it for you.”
The Hills Country Club’s Chicken Parmesan
Yields two servings
Two, 6-oz. chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
Sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
Marinara sauce to taste (recipe follows)
Begin by placing the chicken breast (one at a time) between two pieces of plastic wrap. Then, using the smooth side of a meat tenderizing mallet, pound them until they’re between one-half and one-quarter inch thick, making sure the finished chicken breasts are of equal thickness.
In a food processor or Vitamix blender, process the bread crumbs and grated Parmesan until finely chopped and integrated. Set aside in a medium bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and two eggs.
In one last bowl, combine the all-purpose flour and Italian seasoning and set aside.
Season the flattened chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides, then dredge first in the flour mixture (covering completely and shaking off any excess), then in the egg mixture, and finally in the breadcrumb mixture, making sure the entire piece is well covered.
Set the oven broiler to 475 degrees.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil.
In a large, heavy, deep-rimmed pan, add enough vegetable oil so the level is at least half way up the chicken breasts and heat to 325 degrees. Add the chicken breasts and cook until deep golden brown, then flip and cook to the same level of doneness. (About 6 to 8 minutes). Using a meat thermometer check that the chicken registers at least 165 degrees.
Cook 12 ounces of fresh pasta, then strain, top with desired amount of marinara sauce, cover and set aside.
Place the pan-fried chicken breasts on a baking sheet, cover with about 3 oz. of marinara sauce and top with enough slices of mozzarella to completely cover the meat.
Cook under the broiler until the cheese melts and develops some good caramelization.
While the cheese is melting, portion out the pasta into two bowls, garnish with some grated Parmesan. Top each bowl of pasta with the chicken and enjoy.
One 28-oz. can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand or with potato masher (so they’re chunky)
2 tbsp. fresh garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 cup fresh basil, torn
1/3 cup olive oil
2.5 tbsp. salt
In a medium-size pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Cook until garlic is tender (about 30-45 minutes).