Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Easy Steps: Chicken Parm Sandwich

For some reason, I am in two minds about recommending chicken parmesan. On the one hand, it is quite delicious as a snack when turned into a sandwich. On the other, it is a heck of a lot of work for something that looks so simple. But no matter. Let me try to simplify it by breaking down the main steps so that once you get the big picture, it may not be so daunting.

There are three main components or steps to making chicken parmesan:

1. Cook the tomato-based sauce
2. Bread chicken tenders and fry
3. Bake in oven

Step 1: Making the Sauce
The first thing I would do is to tackle the tomato-based sauce first. This sauce will be drenched over the chicken and together, they are baked in the oven in order to melt the gooey cheese. Here are the ingredients for the sauce:
1 large can diced tomato
1 teaspoon basil (fresh or dried)
1/2 teaspoon oregano (dried)
2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 onion (diced)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt & pepper to taste

In a deep pan, melt the butter and sauté the onions and garlic until soft and slightly brown. Add the can of diced tomato plus the rest of the other ingredients. I like to use balsamic vinegar and a little sugar in my tomato sauces just to dampen the high acidity and the sourness of the tomato. Mix the ingredients well and let the sauce simmer to reduce the liquid by about 80%-85%. Too wet and the sauce won't coat the chicken well. Too dry and you get nothing but chunks of tomato on your chicken. Taste and season with salt and pepper or more sugar, if necessary.

Step 2: Breading & Frying the Chicken
Now that the sauce is done, we can move on to cooking the chicken. Take about a pound of chicken breast, cut them into medium-sized pieces and pound them flat with a meat mallet. Be careful not to pound too hard as it will tear the meat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Prepare your breading station: in one mixing bowl, add 1 egg (beaten) to 2 cups of milk and in another have a plate of seasoned breadcrumbs ready. First, drench the ponded chicken tenders into the egg and milk liquid and then coat it with the breadcrumbs. Deep-fry in a pot of hot oil until it turns golden brown. Set it aside to drain the excess oil and repeat for the rest of the other pieces of chicken.

Step 3: Baking in Oven
Finally, line up all the chicken on a baking pan and scoop the tomato sauce onto the chicken, covering as much of each piece as you can. Finally, you can top it with cheese before baking in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese melt. I like to use a mix of parmesan and gruyère as the topping.

Step 4: Assembly
To make my sandwich, I am partial to onion rolls and to take it up a notch, I spread homemade herbed garlic butter on it before toasting the roll. Take a piece of chicken, place on top the lower half of the roll, sprinkle with some chives or red pepper flakes, top it with lettuce and you are done. It's a lot of work but totally worth it, when you bite into the juicy sandwich.

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