Friday, April 9, 2010

Chicken Marinara, Version 11895

Take note: this is NOT a low-fat meal. Nor is it low in calories. Nor is it particularly high in nutrition. But.... oh, it's good. One of my favorite meals, in fact. Because - and I might have already mentioned this - it's good.

And easy.

Without further ado, let's begin. (By the way, I made this to feed two people. But the method would work if you wanted to double it or triple it or - whatever. It's the process, people, that matters. The process.)

Start with some cheap grated Parmesan-in-a-can.

Toss a couple of heaping tablespoons into a shallow dish. See below? I probably threw in two and a half of those.

Next, add a heaping tablespoon of flour. (So, about one-third the amount of flour as grated Parmesan.)

Add a healthy pinch of salt...

...and some freshly ground black pepper. You can add more seasonings at this point, if you like, but their flavors will probably be obscured by the sauce.

Whisk it together, and if you happen to have a tiny and adorable whisk like mine, consider yourself lucky indeed.

Set that aside. Now, chop up some mushrooms thinly. I always chop what looks like TWICE as much as I need, because they shrink. (This, below, is six mushrooms.)

(If you don't like mushrooms, you can leave them out. But I must ask... what's wrong with you?)

Now heat a tablespoon of butter in a pan for about two minutes, or until it's turning brown. You want your pan over high heat, because you want to sear these babies.

Throw in those mushrooms and get them in as even of a layer as you can. Let them sit, undisturbed, for at least two minutes, before you stir them.

After two minutes, flip them over and let them sit about two minutes more.

See? They shrink. Anyway, they'll probably need about six minutes total.

Now, let's turn to the sauce. You want plain old spaghetti sauce for this recipe, but make sure it's not runny. I usually make a huge batch of sauce and freeze it in two-cup portions. So this is about two cups. However, when I thaw it, it usually tends to be pretty watery. So I simmer it on the back of the stove for a while to thicken it up.

However you do it, you want the sauce to be hot when you put it on the chicken later on. Nothing's worse than warm, juicy chicken topped with golden, bubbly cheese and cold sauce. Yuck. Don't let it happen.

While those mushrooms are cookin' away, grab two chicken breasts...

...and cut off any fat and cartilage with a sharp knife.

You COULD use them this way, but don't. We're going to flatten these puppies.

Why? Well, for three reasons. The first is that by flattening them, there's more surface area for the breading, sauce, mushrooms, and cheese to sit on. The second is that the chicken breasts will cook more evenly since they'll be the same thickness throughout. And the third is that this process makes them more tender and less likely to taste dry.

So cover with two layers of plastic wrap (you don't want to break one and get raw chicken juice on your tools), and grab something heavy. A jar of pasta sauce, a big can of tomatoes, a meat mallet... those will all work. But my favorite tool for the job...

Is Brian's hammer!

Edited to add: Brian thought this was gross. He was all, "You didn't wash that hammer?" and I was all, "Two pieces of plastic wrap!" And then he made a face.

Now, with what I can only describe as "gentle firmness," pound the chicken breasts evenly until they are the same thickness throughout. Don't obliterate them! You can keep checking with your palm, through the plastic wrap, to see if they are flattened evenly. If you feel the one spot is thicker than another area, just pound it out a little more.

See below? The job is done. It doesn't take very long. Now, excuse me while I run the hammer back to Brian's tool shelf.

Okay, I'm back. And - aww. This makes me miss Michigan.

Anyway, at this point, your mushrooms are probably done. Scrape them out onto a plate for a while and keep your pan over low heat.

Dredge the chicken in the flour/cheese mixture. Use your other hand to press the breading onto the chicken. (If there's a little bit of leftover breading, I sprinkle it onto the chicken once it's in the pan. It usually sticks during the cooking process.)

Now in the same pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter. (This, below, is a little too much oil. But no biggie.)

Crank the pan to medium heat and let it heat up for a couple minutes.

And WHOA! I completely forgot to take pictures of the chicken, cooking in the pan! Forgive me. And trust me when I tell you - cook it for four minutes per side. So eight minutes total, only flipping once.

Meanwhile, preheat your broiler on high.

While the chicken is cooking, stir the mushrooms into the sauce. See how thick the sauce is?

When your chicken has cooked in the pan for eight minutes total, four on each side (again, sorry), place them in an ungreased baking dish. (If I were making this for a crowd - which, I might not, considering that there are easier dishes to make for a crowd, but anyway - I would cook the chicken in batches, keeping the cooked chicken on a warm plate, covered with foil, while the rest of it was in the pan.)

Pile the sauce and mushrooms on top. Please, don't scrimp.

Cover with a handful of shredded mozzarella and throw it under the broiler for a few minutes to let the cheese get bubbly and brown.

(For my broiler, this is three minutes. But every broiler is different! DON'T let it burn!)

When it's done, garnish with a sprig of oregano, serve with a green salad, and call it a meal!

Now, if I had a bunch of hungry little mouths to feed, I would serve this over pasta. I would make extra sauce and toss it with the noodles and some extra cheese and serve it with the chicken. But that's entirely up to you. And either way, I think it would be delectable.

Chicken Marinara for Two (can be multiplied)
  • Approx. 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (in a can!)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Approx. 1.5 cups of thick pasta sauce
  • About 2 cups sliced mushrooms (approx. 6)
  • 2 handfuls of shredded cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Mix together the breading ingredients and preheat your sauce, either in the microwave or on the stove.
2. Cook the mushrooms over high heat in one tablespoon of butter (add more oil if it seems too dry). Let them cook about six minutes total, stirring every two minutes. When finished, scoop them onto a separate dish and leave the pan on low heat.
3. Meanwhile, flatten chicken by covering with two sheets of plastic wrap and firmly - but gently - pounding with a heavy object until the chicken breasts are the same thickness throughout.
4. Dredge the chicken in the breading.
5. In the same pan, add a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. Increase heat to medium and let it heat fully - about two minutes - before carefully placing the chicken in the pan.
6. Cook for four minutes on each side, eight minutes total.
7. Meanwhile, preheat your broiler to HIGH.
8. Mix the mushrooms into the heated sauce.
9. When the chicken is finished, place it in an oven proof dish. If your pan is broiler-proof, you can use that (just turn off the heat a minute early so the residual heat doesn't overcook the chicken).
10. Top each chicken breast with a handful of cheese.
11. Broil for about three minutes until the cheese is melted and brown.

Serve alone, or, if you desire, over pasta with extra sauce. Eat and be merry.

Happy Friday!

No comments:

Post a Comment