Chicken parmigiana. Triple cooked chicken, seasoned panko crumbs, good bacon, flavourful tomato sauce and grilled cheese. Pimped up with bacon jam and basil cashew pesto. That’s all there is to my version of chicken parma. Trust me when I say, it is EPIC!
I used to have an obsession with chicken parmigiana. During my university years, I would almost exclusively order it off the menu. I wanted the perfect parma experience. I wanted to find the best chicken parma in Melbourne.
Without sounding like too much of a snob, I got rather frustrated with almost half of the parmas I tried in Melbourne. I didn’t like paying top dollar for something that tasted frozen. One of my biggest pet peeves is overcooked chicken. Surely it wasn’t THAT hard to make?
Then I moved to New Zealand for a couple of years. The first year, I tried to hunt down a parma for Australia day. I ended up at an Italian restaurant with a modified version of their chicken cotoletta, similar to a thin chicken schnitzel. It wasn’t quite the same. I missed my Aussie parmas.
So I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I know plenty of people who are more parma hardcore than me, so I don’t claim to be a parma expert. But for me, a definition of a good parma is:
- A fresh piece of chicken that isn’t overcooked
- Good bacon. This rule isn’t limited to chicken parmas
- Flavourful sauce that tastes of roasted tomatoes
- Grilled cheese
After some tweaking and refining, I find my parma tastes best being pimped up using home made bacon jam and pesto. I made four of these parmas recently from scratch, start to finish, in about two hours.
If you don’t have the luxury of time, don’t worry. Ofcourse, I prefer fresh ingredients but I take shortcuts too if I’m strapped for time. You can almost halve the cooking time by substituting the tomato sauce and pesto with premade or store bought products, and leaving out the bacon jam all together.
So without further ado, here is my epic chicken parma recipe.
- Chicken Breast – usually one breast per person
- Good bacon – two pieces per chicken breast. More if you love bacon as much as I do!
- For the tomato sauce – 1/2 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 small carrot, 1 small stick of celery, 3-4 tomatoes, 2 tsp tomato paste and 200ml of beef stock.
- For the crumb – 100-150g of seasoned flour + 2 beaten eggs + 100g seasoned bread crumbs (I like to use either panko bread crumbs or Krummies. Alternatively you can use fresh bread crumbs)
- 300-400g cheese, grated – I use both vintage tasty and parmesan. I add more because I love a good cheesy parma.
- Herbs to garnish – e.g parsley, rosemary or thyme.
- Serve with tomato sauce, crispy kale and hand cut potato chips
There are two stages – the preparation, and the assembly.
- Lightly poach the chicken breast in milk. I use a medium saucepan and line the bottom with chicken skin to protect the delicate chicken breasts from direct heat. I add my chicken and submerge them in milk. Heat on low heat until you can no longer touch the side of the pot with your hand. Cover and set aside for 20-30 minutes depending on number of breasts. Alternatively you can also brine the chicken to keep it juicy and tender.
- In a small pan, render the bacon fat and fry the bacon until crispy. I also like to fry some smaller pieces to make crispy bacon bits for more texture.
- In the same fry pan, saute onions, carrot, celery. Add the garlic, then the tomato paste. Finally, add the beef stock and fresh tomatoes. I reserve some tomatoes for the end so the tomato sauce still has a chunky texture. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Alternatively to save time, you can use a premade Bolognese sauce and add fresh vegetables to it.
- Prepare any further ingredients you’d like to use such as pesto and bacon jam
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.
- Drain the milk from the chicken and pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
- Prepare the crumb. Coat the chicken in seasoned flour, then dip in the beaten eggs. Remember to shake off any excess otherwise the crumb will just fall off. Finally coat the chicken with breadcrumbs. Press on additional crumbs to cover any gaps, then leave to bind for 2-5 minutes.
- Fry the crumbed chicken with oil and a couple of knobs of butter until golden brown
- Transfer to a tray, ready for assembly.
- Line all the toppings in a row next to the pan fried crumbed chicken
- Lay the cooked bacon on the chicken. This should keep the crumb as crispy as possible
- Add the thickened tomato sauce and any other ingredients such as bacon jam and pesto
- Cover in cheese
- Bake in the oven until the cheese has melted.
- Turn the oven setting to Grill, and grill until cheese is golden. Alternatively, finish with a blow torch.
- Garnish with herbs and serve with any remaining tomato sauce, crispy kale and hand cut potato chips.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions in the comment section. Enjoy!
Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.