Monthly Archives: September 2016

Chicken Parmesan

I have been making this recipe for ages, or so it seems.  I found the recipe on a page torn from a magazine tucked into a vintage cookbook that was handed down to me.  It is actually a recipe for Veal Parmesan but I have always used chicken instead and my own homemade tomato sauce.  It is a favorite of my daughter and most of the picky eaters in the family like it as well.

Chicken Parmesan (Chicken Parmigiana) is probably one of the most popular and loved Italian-American dishes in the USA.  It is found on local and chain Italian restaurants.  I associate it with Fall cooking because we have a big family dinner in September to celebrate my daughter’s birthday and Chicken Parmesan is her entree of choice.  It just may be our most loved Italian comfort food.

The thing about Chicken Parmesan is that it is not really authentic Italian. Chicken Parmesan has its origins in the United States, where it was popularized among Italian-American communities. Italian immigrants created the meal, which quickly became thought of as an authentic Italian dish.  According to Clifford A. Wright, eggplant parmesan is the dish you are most likely to find in Italy. It is most likely the predecessor to all other parmesan dishes.  Mr. Wright is a culinary historian who has written many cookbooks.  For more interesting facts about the origins of Eggplant Parmesan, please read this article here written by Mr. Wright.

I have his 1999 cookbook A Mediterranean Feast in my collection. His cookbook is not the usual one but rather a history told through recipes, which I love.  With over 700 pages in this book, it is definitely a useful resource to have in a cookbook collection.

A Mediterranean Feast

It is interesting to note that Italian restaurants in the USA had the dish on their menus in the 1950s.  Mamma Leone’s a famous Italian restaurant in New York City (open from 1906 to 1994) had it on their menu in 1958, as shown in the picture below.  Photo is courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Mamma Leone's Menu

You will want to make Chicken Parmesan as soon as possible.  It is hearty and delicious, and I feel pretty sure your family will love it and thank you for making it.

Chicken Parmesan

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed and pounded flat
1 egg, beaten with 1/2 cup milk
2 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce, homemade or favorite jar brand
6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/4  grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the salt and pepper with the bread crumbs.  Dip the chicken breasts in the egg and milk mixture, then in bread crumbs, coating lightly.

In a large skillet, heat about 1/4 cup olive oil.  Add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, and cook until golden-brown on each side (2 to 3 minutes for each side).  Add more oil if needed.

Place the chicken in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, to cover the bottom in a single layer. Add 1/4 cup tomato sauce to each of the chicken breasts (spreading evenly) and then add one to two slices of the mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese.  Spoon small amounts of tomato sauce around the chicken in the pan.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is done and the cheese is melted.  

Chicken Parmesan in a Pan

Chicken Parmesan

Notes:
1.  Here is a helpful link describing how to pound chicken breasts to an even thickness.
2.  My recipe for Tomato Sauce can be found in this March 2014 post.

 

Crème Brûlée

Labor Day weekend has come and gone.  While it is still warm,  Labor Day does symbolize the end of summer here in the USA.  I think my flower garden realizes that too.  My flowers have gone from this

Bea Balm

to this.

HummingbirdButterfly

At least the hummingbirds and butterflies like the fading flowers.

But September has a lot going for it.  For one thing, it is my daughter’s birthday later on in the month.  I will be making her favorite desert which is Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie.  The recipe for that can be found in this post from December 2014.

However, at some point I will make Crème Brûlée for her.  It is another one of her favorite desserts.  If it is on a restaurant menu when we eat out, she usually orders it.

Crème Brûlée (burnt sugar) is certainly a French name but there is some question as to which country invented it.  France, England, and even Spain claim that honor.

The recipe was first recorded in written form in 1691 by Francois Massialot in his book Le Cuisine Roial et Bourgeois.  Massialot cooked for various members of France’s royal family.  His early recipe included egg yolks, milk, pinch of flour and different flavorings and called for a red hot shovel to burn the sugar. The mention of sugar for the cream mixture is given later, almost as an after thought (“well sugared on the top, besides the sugar that is put into it”).

The English translation of his book is titled The Court and Country Cook.  A free PDF version of the book is available from the US Library of Congress here.  If you are a lover of food and old books, you will want to read this one.  In its PDF version, the recipe can be viewed on page 95.

My recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s cookbook, Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home.  It is one of my favorite cookbooks.  One can sense her love of Paris and all things French.  The book also has a lot of beautiful photographs, and is a pleasure to read.

Crème Brûlée is actually a simple dessert with its combination of cream, egg yolks, sugar,  vanilla and topping of hardened caramel.  It is also fairly easy to make.  The hardest part is probably waiting for it to cool before adding the caramel topping.

Crème Brûlée

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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3 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 large egg yolks
superfine or granulated sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium heat until scalded (small bubbles will start to appear around the edges of the pan).  Remove from the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the vanilla bean.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar together on low speed until just combined.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cream to the eggs.

If foam developed during the mixing process, remove with a spoon.  Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the mixture into a large measuring cup or pourable container and then use that to fill the ramekins until almost full.

Place the ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the custards are set but still slightly jiggly in the center when gently shaken.  If custards are not yet set, cook longer but check after ten minutes of additional cooking.  Carefully, remove the custards from the water bath, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until firm.

To serve, spread 1-2 teaspoons of sugar evenly on the top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar carmelizes evenly.   Allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes or until the caramelized sugar hardens and then serve immediately.   

Notes:
1.   I used 6 (6 ounce) ceramic ramekins for this recipe and used a thick pot holder to grasp the tops of the ramekins to remove from the water bath.  Be careful because the ramekins and water are very hot.
2.  If vanilla bean is not available, use one teaspoon pure vanilla flavoring, adding to the cream and egg mixture before straining.

Creme Brûlée