Oven-Fried Parmesan Chicken from Deen Bros. Good Cooking, Premier Issue 2010

Several years ago my husband and I took a trip to Italy and I fell in love with the country. I had been there before, but stayed in the confines of Rome. This time we were in the north, visiting places like Milan, Pisa, Florence and Venice. We would sit in restaurants overlooking the ocean and watch old men stroll arm-in-arm down the boardwalk while enjoying the amazing food the Italians are famous for. When I got home, I started cooking more Italian food but discovered that, as with many things, what we view as Italian cooking is very much not what Italians cook.

This was drilled home when I discovered Molto Mario on the Food Network. Mario Batali is truly one of my culinary heroes to the point where our daughter learned to dance to the Molto Mario theme song when she was a baby because I watched it every day while playing with her on the floor. I learned about true Italian cooking from him instead of from the cookbooks that I had.

An example of non-Italian Italian fare is Oven-Fried Parmesan Chicken. It has Parmesan cheese and a marinara sauce, but that’s the extent to which it’s at all connected to Italy. That’s a lengthy disclaimer, I know, but I love true Italian cooking.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to the next recipe in the Deen Bros. Good Cooking magazine, the Oven-Fried Parmesan Chicken. I made it because our family needed something healthy and quick and I had chicken thawed, as well as having all the ingredients handy.

Like many other people, I’ve jumped on the panko bread crumb wagon and encourage anyone that hasn’t tried them yet to do so. If a recipe calls for fresh, soft bread crumbs, I’ll make them, but if it requires dried crumbs, I’ll head for panko over ordinary dried bread crumbs every time. They have a beautiful crunch and color that regular bread doesn’t.

The idea of coating the chicken breasts with mustard (and other liquids) seemed a little strange to me, but I did it and was glad for that. It did add a nice touch of flavor that I would have missed if I had omitted the yellow mustard.

The coating of the panko seasoned panko crumbs kept the chicken nice and moist and I was also happy that the Deen brothers asked me to put the chicken on a cooling rack instead of straight on the pan. I think it made a big difference and let the bottom crisp up as well.

This dish is done within 30 minutes and is awesome when served with a simple pasta with garlic and olive oil. Even though Parmesan chicken isn’t Italian, it brings you a little closer. Five points for the person who knows what the one authentic Parmigiana dish is and what the word means.

We did enjoy this chicken. It had good flavor and great crunch.

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