Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

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I’m really not a huge fan of authentic Italian food.

I don’t like lasagna. I don’t like carbonara. I don’t care for the white heavy cream based sauces that can be found in a lot of Italian dishes at all. I’m not one for using lemon in savory applications. I’m actually not even a huge fan of cheese in general. If it weren’t for pizza, I could probably live without eating it entirely.

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My love for Italian food can basically be summed up in a plate of pasta (preferably spaghetti, rotini or ziti) and a mess of meaty marinara sauce dumped on top of it. If I’m feeling really “adventurous” there’ll be Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

And that just about does it.

Everything else I’m probably going to want to pass on.

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All of the above is what makes today’s recipe somewhat special.  I count it as me daring to be ‘adventurous’ and cook then eat something Italian that isn’t just pasta and meat sauce.

I needed to cook something that would last for the week but I didn’t really know what. I looked through the sale ads and didn’t seem any meat that was on sale except for pork chops and pork loin (neither of which I really felt like cooking or eating). So then, I went digging through my freezer to see if I’d bought any meat a while back then saved for later and just forgot about it.  Turns out, I had. I found two packs of chicken cutlets (chicken that’s thinly sliced and/or pounded thin by the butcher ahead of time).

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Most times meat that’s been prepared into cutlets is for the purpose of sandwich making. The protein is thinner, so it cooks relatively quickly and can fit on pieces of bread without much hassle. I’ve already made chicken schnitzel before on the blog with great results, but I wanted to make something new that I could post and share.  I’d also made shredded chicken into tacos just a couple weeks ago, so using the cutlets for that for that seemed kinda redundant.

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As a cook and eater with Southern roots, I’m of the opinion that it’s pretty tough to go wrong with chicken that you bread and fry, no matter what cuisine we’re talking about. Then, because a good red sauce is one part of Italian food that I like, I figured throwing them together couldn’t result in too shabby a meal. It also wouldn’t take a very long time to make, So for all those reasons, I decided to go ahead and make Chicken Parmesan for the first time, ever.

I really, REALLY liked the results.

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The best marinara sauce I’ve had to date is the one I made for my Pizza Hut-style breadsticks and Pan-Pizza that I made a while back on the blog, so that’s what I decided I would use for this recipe. I did a double batch because I love my sauce and wanted to have plenty to eat during the week for leftovers, but you can always cut it in half if you’re a less is more kind of a person.

Anytime you let chicken soak in an overnight buttermilk bath, you know that you’re going to have chicken that cooks up very moist and tender. I let mine chill for the whole 24, and once again I proved to myself that chicken breast haters are just doing their chicken breast wrong in how they treat it. The cutlets came out VERY moist and juicy on the inside. Chicken breading can sometimes run the risk of being bland and tasteless, but the method of including cheese with the actual breadcrumbs that the chicken is fried in gives it a GREAT flavor and texture. The crust came out perfectly crisp and golden when fresh and even when reheating the leftovers throughout the week, I found that I liked it even after it had gone soft.

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If you’re not a fan of Ciabatta bread, or you can’t find a grocery store or bakery in your area that carries it, that’s totally fine. Pepperidge Farm bread slices have also worked for me. I will say though, that for these sandwiches you want to use a bread that when toasted is big and sturdy enough to support the weight of the hot chicken and won’t get flat and soggy when you pile on the cheese and warm sauce. So please don’t sell yourself short; go for the good stuff.

The verdict is in and…Chicken Parmesan can sit with us. Finis.

Happy Fiesta Friday #132, co-hosted this week by Sandhya @ Indfused and Nancy @ Feasting With Friends.

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Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 (15oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1 tsp dry marjoram
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Chicken:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk, divided
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 loaf crusty italian bread, crust removed, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
  • 5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 quart Tomato Sauce  (see above recipe)
  • 10 ounces shredded mozzarella or Italian blended cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, basil, or a mix
  • 1 loaf of Ciabatta bread or another sturdy crusty bread for sandwiches

Directions

Split chicken breasts in half horizontally. Working one piece at a time, place inside a plastic zipper-lock bag and pound with a meat pounder or the bottom of a skillet to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and minced garlic to bowl. Season with 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Turn chicken with hands until salt, pepper, and garlic are evenly incorporated and all the chicken is coated in buttermilk mixture. Transfer to a large zipper-lock bag, press out the air, and seal. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Meanwhile, place bread slices on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Leave out on counter for at least 4 hours and up to overnight until mostly dried.The next day, break bread into rough pieces (leave the wire rack in the rimmed baking sheet) and combine with 4 ounces Parmesan cheese in the food processor. Season with black pepper. Process until bread is finely ground, about 20 seconds. Transfer mixture to a large shallow bowl or pie plate.

Place flour in a second shallow bowl or pie plate. Whisk eggs, 2 tablespoons buttermilk, and 1 tablespoon of the flour in a third pie plate. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk over the breadcrumb/Parmesan mixture and incorporate with your fingertips. The mixture should be mealy, but hold together in clumps if you squeeze it together with your hands.

Working one piece of chicken at a time, remove from the bag and add to flour. Turn to coat, shake off excess, and add to egg mixture. Turn to coat, letting excess drip off, and add to breadcrumb mixture. Turn to coat, piling crumbs on top and pressing down firmly so a thick layer adheres. Transfer coated chicken to the wire rack and repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Adjust broiler rack to 8 inches below the heat source and preheat broiler to high. Place ciabatta cut-side-up on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Place under broiler and cook until well browned and crisp, about 2 minutes.

Transfer top bun to a large cutting board. Spread bottom bun with extra sauce and top with chicken cutlets, shingling them so they all fit in a single layer covering the bread (cutlets should already have sauce and some cheese on them). Top with more cheese. Return to broiler and cook until cheese is fully melted and starting to bubble and brown.

Remove from oven and immediately close sandwich, pressing down firmly to seal. Let rest for 1 minute. Slice into 6 to 8 single-serving pieces and serve. 

Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

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My mom is really, really REALLY crafty.

When I say that, I mean that she’s one of those people who can take the most ordinary, seemingly common objects and turn them into something really cool and awesome.This happened a lot when we were little kids. She would buy one of the cheap stuffed animals from the dollar store, then go to the fabric store to buy the clearance fabrics that she would sew into beautiful, sometimes even elaborate dresses to dress the animals in. A lot of the glass and porcelain knick knacks and show pieces in my grandma’s living room are ones that my mom bought from the dollar store and jazzed up on our her own so that they look like they came from a gift shop and cost a fortune. For a while, she even made and sold floral wreaths and jewelry boxes.

When I was around six or seven, me and my sisters were in our church’s Vacation Bible School in the summertime for kids and there was this costume contest. We didn’t have a lot of money at that time, and certainly not enough for my mom to buy three girls fancy costumes to wear. So, being the crafty, innovative person that she is, she decided to construct costumes for all of using items she already had in our house.

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Oh yeah, and I should probably mention that the items were white garbage bags, silver wrapping paper ribbon, glitter and dress-up wigs (two pink, and one blue). The result? Three little angels.

My mom sprinkled glitter over the white garbage bags, then cut holes out of them to fit our arms and legs. She then used the silver ribbon to cinch them at the waist, then curled the ends so that the bags looked like dresses. After putting on the wigs and a little bit of lipstick and blush, our costumes for the contest were complete.

I know it sounds weird and crazy now, but I can still remember feeling so pretty in that costume at the time. I thought my mom was a genius and was so proud of her for coming up with the idea. The reality is that instead of angels, the three of us looked like The Paper Bag Princess meets The Jetsons.

I can’t decide whether the greater miracle was that no one laughed or made fun of us…or that me and my sisters actually won that costume contest.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have my mom’s crafty abilities in using ordinary objects to create physical art that wins contests and makes money.Art’s not my thing- never has been, and likely never will be. I’m just a home cook. However that does mean that I can take ordinary ingredients that some people (including myself) may underestimate and make them into a dish that really exceeds even my own expectations. That’s what happened with this dish.

Small confession: I don’t like ordinary lasagna. For one, I hate ricotta cheese. Two, there’s something about the texture of the noodles, that puts me off. So for years, I’ve just avoided it all together. But then, I found myself with a whole lot of zucchini that I simply had to find something to do with that didn’t involve zucchini bread. I’ve seen variations of this dish done before, so I decided to create my own rendition, specially tailored for my ricotta/lasagna noodle-hating tastes.

I was REALLY impressed with how this came out.  The zucchini is such a great alternative to the pasta, and I actually think it’s a vast improvement on the original. It tastes like pure comfort food, and I’m planning on adding it to the dinner rotation for my family as a regular dish. I’m also bringing it to the party at this week’s Fiesta Friday #32, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener . Give it a try, folks. I don’t think you’ll regret it 🙂

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Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Large Zucchini
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 15 oz. cans of pizza sauce
  • 1 1/2lb ground beef
  • 1lb roll of pork (or turkey) sausage
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 7 oz. pouch of pepperoni
  • 8 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Using a mandolin (or a VERY sharp knife), slice zucchini length-wise into very thin slices, about 1/8 thick.

3. Lay slices on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle liberally with salt. Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes.

4. Using a paper towel, press all the remaining moisture from the zucchini and set aside.

5. Brown ground beef and sausage together in a pan, then drain off excess fat. In same skillet, saute onion and bell pepper in same skillet, until softened.

6. Pour pizza sauce into a bowl and stir in the ground beef, sausage, onion and bell pepper.

7. Turn up oven heat to 375°. Spray an 11 x 13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Layer the zucchini slices in the bottom and spread with pizza sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over sauce, then lay pepperoni over cheese. Repeat layers, ending with pizza sauce.

8. Cover lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle top with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes.

9. Remove lasagna from oven and heat broiler. Place back in oven and bake until cheese is browned, about 2-3 minutes.

10. Allow lasagna to sit for about 30 minutes before eating to allow to settle. Serve.

Pizza Hut Breadsticks

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Today’s Fiesta Friday post, hosted by  Indu @Indu’s International KitchenSelma @Selma’s Table, and Hilda @Along The Grapevine, will be dedicated to the CEO of Pizza Hut, Scott Bergren. (Yeah, I googled it. So what?)

Dear, Mr. Bergren: (or Scott, can I call you Scott?)

I don’t know anyone that likes to eat pizza just on it’s own. You’ve gotta have something on the side. What I choose to eat on the side depends on where I’m getting my pizza from. All bread sticks are not created equal; if I’m going to pay for them, then I want them to be the bomb.com. If they’re not, I’ll just order the pizza then call it a day. Capisce?

So with that in mind, I’m writing you today to talk about bread sticks. I’m sure you won’t mind the topic of conversation; pizza and bread sticks are your life (literally).

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I’m not gonna lie to you: Dominoes breadsticks are pretty solid. The outer seasoning is somewhat greasy, but it’s still got great flavor. The inside of the bread is soft and tender and the texture has a really nice chew. The marinara sauce is pretty good too. If there’s a special at Domino’s that includes pizza & breadsticks, I would definitely want to get the breadsticks. I’m sure you and all your research strategists sit around and plan how to one up Domino’s from year to year, and when it comes to their breadsticks I can’t say that I blame you.

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Little Caesars. Heh. Here’s the thing: with this place, I feel like you kinda get what you pay for. It’s rather cheap food, and oftentimes it kinda tastes that way too. Their Crazy Bread isn’t terribly bad, but it’s not terribly great either. Number one, the bread is EXTREMELY greasy. There’s not much browning or outer crust to speak of, which is a major  issue for me. The outer seasoning pretty much seems like liquid butter with clumps of dried parmesan cheese. The marinara sauce has decent flavor, but it is pretty thick, which creates a problem when the bread sticks themselves are very thick and chewy- I’m a sauce hog, so I always want more. I have been known to get Crazy bread on it’s own when I want a quick snack to hold me over for a few hours; it’s worth the $1.99 you pay for it, but not much else.

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Having said all that, I have to give you my own personal congratulations on your product: in my opinion, Pizza Hut has the best breadsticks out there, period. Whenever I’ve eaten out at Pizza Hut, I always get a side of breadsticks, whether there’s a special for it or not. The texture of the bread is spot on: soft and chewy on the inside, but it has a perfect browned outer crust that has a balanced crunch when you first bite into it. It’s not too thick and heavy The seasonings are also more complex than just butter and parmesan, although I can taste those too. The sauce is a close second to my love of the breadsticks; it’s not too thick so you don’t run out before you finish the breadsticks and it’s also slightly sweet, which I really like. You guys really nailed it with the breadsticks, Scott. So don’t change a thing.

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I loved your breadsticks so much that I decided to try and make them on my own at home. I was very pleasantly surprised with the result. I understand that because I don’t have the verbatim recipe that Pizza Hut, as well as a commercial pizza oven it won’t be a dead ringer for the original, but I think that what I had was a very very close second. The sauce was pretty close to yours too. In fact, I felt so inspired by the success of the breadsticks, that I thought I’d go one step further and try out an even more ambitious attempt – but that’s for another post.

Oh yeah, and one more thing, Scott. I do have one criticism of you guys over there at The Hut.

You discontinued the single best item you’ve ever had one your menu. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten, period.

The Big New Yorker Pizza.

Whoever it was at Pizza Hut Headquarters that came up with this recipe deserves a  fat promotion. Everything about it was absolutely perfect. It was my pick me once upon a time, Scott. That pizza literally cured one of the worst days I ever had once. I never, ever, ever, ever got tired of it.

Having said all that, I feel that whoever’s decision it was to discontinue The Big New Yorker deserves the sack. (…Unless that happened to be you. I hope that it wasn’t, so that we can still be friends.)

Please do me a solid and bring it back to Pizza Hut, Scott. Nice chat- we should try it again sometime.

Jessica

*Just to clarify, this IS just a copycat recipe. I don’t own the actual Pizza Hut logo or breadsticks recipe. So don’t sue me 😉

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Pizza Hut Breadsticks

Recipe Courtesy of Savoryreviews.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

For Dough:

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (105°)
  • 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp granulates sugar
  • 1 (1/4 oz) pkg dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (for dough)
  • 9 oz vegetable oil (3 oz per pan)

For Breadstick Seasoning

  • 2 tbsp dry parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp dried basil

For Dipping Sauce

  • 1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • ½ tsp dry basil
  • ½ tsp dry marjoram
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

 Directions

1. Add the dough hook to your stand mixer. Put yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add water and stir to mix well. Allow to sit for two minutes or until the mixture starts to bubble. Add oil and stir again.

2. Gently add the flour and stir until dough forms and flour is absorbed. Then knead the dough with the dough hook on speed 4, for 5 minutes.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide dough into two balls. You can refrigerate the second dough ball. Pour 4 tbsp of oil into a 9×13 cake pan making sure it is spread evenly

4. Roll out the dough into a 9×13 rectangle. Then place the dough into the 9×13 pan. Cover the pan with a sheet pan and let the dough rest and rise for at least 1½ hours.

5. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. After the dough has risen, cut the dough into 10 equal breadsticks. Lightly spray the top of the breadsticks with butter flavored PAM. Then lightly sprinkle the top of the breadsticks with the breadstick seasoning.

6. Place the breadsticks in the oven for 10-15 minutes. When the breadsticks brown and the edges get crispy, remove the pan from the oven.

7. Then using a spatula remove the breadsticks from the pan. Break the sticks apart at the scored lines and serve with the pizza sauce. While the dough is rising, mix the sauce ingredient together in a sauce pan. Heat with medium heat until the sauce starts to boil, then lower the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes before using.

 

Roman-Style Chicken

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If you guys have read my ‘About’ page, then you already know that I’m a self-professed Food Network addict. That was not an exaggeration. I definitely am. The default station that I always turn to on my television is Food Network. I know all of the tv personalities and their shows. I splurge and buy the Food Network magazine every single month. I’m also a member of their website and frequently save and try recipes that I see on TV or see online. One of my goals for the blog is to have a themed recipe series for each one of my favorite Food Network stars, where I only cook about 3-4 of some of my favorite of their recipes and share them with all of you. It’ll happen. I’m determined. Stay tuned.

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One day I was perusing the Food Network website for ideas of what to do with the standard package of chicken breasts that I bought from the grocery store (that I always end up buying every week). There was a side bar that showed the current most popular/saved recipes at present. One of them was given 5 out 5 stars and had 1,151 reviews. It was a recipe called Roman Chicken from Giada de Laurentiis.

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I literally couldn’t find anyone that said anything negative  about this recipe. Everyone on Food Network’s website said that it was just awesome, and even better (and perhaps most importantly), I had all of the ingredients to make it already on hand in my kitchen/pantry. So I gave it my best shot.

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I  love when I decide to try a completely new recipe and it turns out exceeding my expectations, and this chicken was definitely one of them. I usually don’t care much for Italian-style food, but I could eat this dish all day long. The name is so befitting of it, as it really reminded me of a rustic Tuscany evening. The sauce is super flavorful and it just screams to have a loaf of crusty, Italian-style bread on the side to dip it into- which I also happened to have on hand.

This is an easy dish, but it’s also one that I would serve to guests or a significant other to impress. Moral of the story: when not in Rome, make Roman-Style Chicken and you just may feel like you are.

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Roman-Style Chicken

Recipe Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 3 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Directions

1. Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

2. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and bacon and cook until the peppers have browned and the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.

Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve.

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