The Mister’s favorite food in the entire world is Chicken Parmesan, specifically from Olive Garden (although he claims anything from Burger King is a VERY close second –gag!)
Let me just say, for the record, I am not a fan of the Olive Garden. Sorry, we’re not friends. The Mister and I are lucky enough to live in Cleveland’s very own Little Italy. Our neighborhood has the most authentic Italian restaurants in the area! For the Mister to even CONSIDER the Olive Garden after dining in restaurants such as Trattoria, La Dolce Vita and Mama Santa’s is sinful! (note, in some cases Olive Garden is actually MORE expensive, so don’t go thinking this is a price issue!) Whatever, he and my darling brother love the Olive Garden and always taunt me with it when we’re trying to decide where to go out to eat. Gross. If I’m going to eat Italian food I want it to taste like authentic Italian food. OK — I’m done. Rant over
While I also happen to enjoy Chicken Parmesan, I try and save the dish for special occasions since it’s pretty high in fat and calories. I normally grill my portion of the chicken and just add the sauce and cheese. It’s not that I don’t like crunchy fried coating, because trust me, I do! I know it’s delicious. But I also know that I’d rather spend the calories and fat on ice cream
It wasn’t until I ran across a Cooks Illustrated light ‘oven-fried chicken’ recipe that I realized I could probably lighten up the dish a bit. See, the chefs at Cooks Illustrated realized that by cooking the chicken in a different way, using an iron rack on top of a baking sheet instead of a frying pan, the fried tasting crunchy coating could still be achieved without all the fat and calories! I did a bit of research, read a bunch of recipes and came up with a dish that the Mister likes BETTER than the original. (He says this method makes the coating extra crunchy — his favorite part!)
Your favorite homemade marinara sauce, or in my case — your favorite store bought marinara sauce (don’t judge!). I figure, If I’m making Chicken Parmesan from scratch, I’m not going to feel bad about short-cutting it with the sauce!
- 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (many recipes called for unbleached all-purpose, but I thought whole wheat worked well)
- 3 egg whites, or 3/4 cup egg beaters
- 1 tablespoon water
- nonstick cooking spray (I used PAM and it worked just fine)
- 3 boneless chicken breasts — trim fat and slice into cutlets
- cup shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon basil — I promise using fresh herbs is worth it — SUCH a difference
- 1 tablespoon parsley (The dish tastes great without the herbs, but using them really adds freshness and authenticity)
Preheat oven to 475
Combine panko crumbs and oil and toast over medium heat for about 10 minutes — until golden. This will help achieve the crunchy coating we all know and love. Set crumbs aside in a dish, cool and stir in the Parmesan.
Combine flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a separate dish.
In a third dish, whisk together egg whites/beaters and water.
Now here is the secret behind the crunchy crust (no frying required!)
Line your baking sheet with foil.
Place a cooling rack on top and coat with non stick spray (using an iron rack on top of the baking sheet, instead of just the baking sheet, allows hot air to circulate around the chicken and help make the breading crispy — eliminating soggy bottoms!).
Dab chicken with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dunk cutlet into the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Dip into egg whites, letting the excess drip off, and then coat with the panko bread crumbs. Press bread crumbs firmly into chicken to ensure they adhere. Place chicken on iron rack.
Spray the chicken with non stick cooking spray (this will help give the chicken the ‘fried’ taste, without all the oil!).
Bake for about 15 minutes
Remove from oven and top with sauce and cheese (as much as you desire! – recipe recommends 2-3 tablespoons of sauce and cheese per cutlet).
Bake until cheese melts.
Garnish with basil and parsley. .
You’re done! See, wasn’t that easy?
Serve up with some of your favorite whole wheat pasta or cooked vegetables. Sometimes I just enjoy it alongside of fresh bread and olive oil. Yummmmm.
What’s your favorite dish? Do you have a special way you lighten it up, or do you just occasionaly indulge?