A short tragedy:
There once was a young chef. Let's call him Frederick Vogel. On second thought, that makes him sound like a member of Prussian nobility. Let's just call him Fred. In his home kitchen, outfitted with rudimentary cooking equipment, Fred poured over his mother's copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and America's Test Kitchen, working through each recipe. After a few years of being mom's sous chef , he felt confident enough to supplant her in the kitchen in a gentle coup d'état– insecurity in her own cooking skills gave way to relief once Fred's mother realized that she'd no longer have to cook after her long days at work. Fred's father, at first concerned about his son's manliness (it was 2007 and Mr. Vogel was watching far too much Mad Men), gradually started seeing his son's cooking as a beautiful gift and began having grandiose dreams (the kind fathers are wont to have) of his son earning a Michelin star and becoming a celebrity chef.
At just 13-years-old, Fred was the head chef in his family, and this was not just for after school/work dinners but for holiday celebrations that included cousins (1st and 2nd), Aunts, Uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and whoever might be passing through. Even Fred's cantankerous Uncle Boris was taken aback by the cheesy sumptuousness of the chicken cordon bleu Fred made for his family's 2009 Christmas celebration. If there was food to be eaten, it was Fred's job to make it and he was always happy to oblige. Fred's parents, along with everyone in his extended family, were extremely proud and used every opportunity they could find to talk about Fred and his fine knife work and excellent attention to detail. Everyone, except his cousin Tilly.
Tilly had no discernible skills in the kitchen. Actually, Tilly had no discernible skills at all, save for playing the violin at a timber that sat somewhere between "cat getting stabbed in an alley" and "Range Rover running over a squeaky toy." For obvious reasons, namely that she didn't receive 1/1000 of the attention that Fred did, Tilly was jealous. On top of this, Fred and Tilly were the same age, so there was a natural air of competition (contrived by their parents) between them.
It was Easter 2014. Fred had just been accepted to Northwestern and Tilly, after scoring somewhat below average on her SATs, was going to community college. This was the straw that broke the camel's bag, but from Tilly's rage burst forth devious focus. She began to plot and scheme and had noticed that every time Fred cooked, he never took his eyes off the recipe from which he was working. With a smirk so evil it could shatter glass, Tilly snuck into the kitchen while Fred washed up and stole the recipe book, hiding it under the guest room's pullout couch. When Fred came back he was distraught. He looked everywhere for the recipe book but to no avail. His guests were getting hungry, but while all the ingredients he needed were laid out before him, Fred had no idea how to proceed.
Unfortunately, Fred was full of pride from years of being told he was great chef. This fatal flaw was the crux of Tilly's plan. She knew he wouldn't simply admit that he couldn't make the dinner without a recipe. Fred proceeded to approximate what the recipes called for. What resulted, was an unevenly spiced jambalaya, a bland vegetable medley, and an overcooked ham. Tilly couldn't have been more pleased and had a hard time suppressing her laughter at the table. Fred's family balked at the food they were served and ultimately decided to order Chinese takeout instead when Fred's grandmother's dentures fell out after getting stuck to a rubbery piece of ham fat. Fred's failure was henceforth known as the Fiasco of '14 and it haunts him to this day.
Was it me, or was that story pointless? No. It has a point. The point is, if you expect to be a real chef, you have to come to terms with the fact that exact measurements are for cowards. While I concede that not following the recipe for certain baked goods (cookies, cakes etc.) will most likely end in disaster, there's something to that old saying about cooking and baking and art and science. With this in mind, this week's recipe, chicken parmesan, will not come with many exact measurements. Instead, I'll explain the process of how to make the dish, and it will be up to you, the chef to determine the ratio of spices.
-8 pieces of thinly-sliced chicken breast
-2 eggs, beaten
-Crushed red peppers
-1 small onion
-Grated parmesan cheese
-Shredded mozzarella cheese
-Marinara sauce preferably homemade but Classico's tomato and basil is acceptable. If you buy Ragú, don't bother cooking this. You don't deserve my recipe.
Finely slice the onion and put it in a pan with 1 Tbsp canna-oil and 1 Tbsp regular olive oil. Fry until crispy. While the onion cooks, get three bowls. Fill one with beaten eggs, one with flour, and one with panko breadcrumbs. Mix basil, parmesan cheese, black pepper, a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper into the breadcrumbs to taste. Once onions are crispy, toss them into the breadcrumbs as well and mix thoroughly with a spoon.
If your chicken isn't razor thin, it may need some additional pounding. Be careful not to tear it. Next, fill a pan with 2 parts olive oil to 1 part canna-oil and put on medium heat. The chicken breading process is simple. Flour first. Eggs second. Panko third. Dip in that order. Each step should produce an even coat on the piece of chicken breast. After chicken is coated, place it pan and fry for about 2 minutes on each side. After chicken is cooked, set aside on paper-towels and dap up any excess oil.
Coat the bottom of a pyrex dish with marinara sauce. Next place the chicken on top. Cover the chicken with mozzarella cheese. Drizzle a tiny bit of canna-oil on top. Then, add another layer of marinara. I know, all the chicken parm you've had has the cheese on top. I don't care. This is my recipe. Bake for 25 minutes at 400˚F. Be sure to check the internal temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer (it should read 165˚F) before serving. Pour it over the pasta of your choice and enjoy.