When Nathan and I have a theme, we like to follow it through to its fullest extent. For instance, when we have tacos the weather must be nice, we must have Margaritas and we have to listen to the ‘Mexicana’ Pandora station (whether we like it or not.) So, for our chicken parmesan last night it was imperative to recreate an Italian trattoria in our apartment. A cool spring evening, a bottle of Chianti, and…Andrea Boccelli courtesy of Pandora.
“Ann-drea Boo-ccelli?” Nathan skeptically asked.
“Of course!” I answered… “Andrea is a staple of a good Italian meal! He will tug at heart strings you never knew you had.”
Yes, it’s true…before last night, Nathan had never consciously listened to the dulcet tones of the ‘fourth tenor.’ And so…Pandora took us on a musical journey of Andrea, Michael Buble, Celine Dion and Josh Groban that left Nathan weak in the knees and yearning for the safe haven of heavy metal. Fortunately, the Chicken Parmesan that we made more than made up for the musical onslaught endured by Nathan’s aural senses. The sauce is fresh and zesty, the chicken is tender and juicy, and the whole dish is covered with a layer of melted cheese that’s as easy to love as the smooth voice of “Ann-drea Boo-celli.”
Rating: 6.75 out of 10
This is a very standard Italian table wine that reminded me of the house wines served by the glass carafe in many Italian trattorias that I frequented in Rome. It wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t remarkably good and was dry in a way that sucked all the moisture from my mouth on the first sip. It was definitely not a wine that I would want to drink by itself but when sipped with the chicken parmesan it was a solid accompaniment. There wasn’t much flavor to speak of…the overwhelming impression of the wine was extreme dryness! I haven’t yet found a Chianti that I love…the search shall continue!
Rating: 8.25 out of 10.0
This is the perfect example of a good beer but a bad pairing… Initially, I set out to grab a pale ale or IPA with the thought that a lighter beer with some hop bite to it would offset this rich meal. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to the IPA that I got… Raging Bitch is a Belgian Style IPA with the hop bite that I was looking for but with a rich malt undertones and an 8.3% alcohol content to boot. Halfway through the meal I was super full from the great filling Italian dish and equally filling beer.
Me not paying attention to what I was buying isn’t Flying Dog’s fault though. Raging Bitch is a nice strong beer with great balance between the hops characteristic in an IPA with the malty sweetness of a Belgian beer. This beer would be great with a light tart dish with fruit or funky cheese but not breaded chicken with melted cheese and marinara sauce…
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 coarsely grated peeled carrot
1 28-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes in juice
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from dry French bread ground in processor)
1 large egg
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil, divided
1 cup coarsely grated well-drained fresh water-packed mozzarella
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Basic Tomato Sauce:
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion is soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add carrot; sauté until carrot is soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice and diced tomatoes; bring to boil, coarsely crushing tomatoes with potato masher or fork. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until it is pureed to desired consistency. Add garlic powder, basil and red pepper flakes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Place chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using meat mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken breasts to 1/3-inch thickness. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Spread breadcrumbs on plate. Whisk eggs to blend in medium bowl. Spread flour on another plate. Coat both sides of chicken with flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add chicken to skillet and cook until brown, about 2 minutes per side, adding more oil as needed (chicken will not be cooked through). Transfer chicken to platter. Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of a large glass baking dish. Arrange chicken over sauce. Spoon 2 cups sauce over. Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan over. Bake until cheeses melt and chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.