Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Chicken Parmesan - Video Recipe

You'll want to put on a Dean Martin ditty while cooking my take on an Italian classic: Chicken Parmesan. You're dinner guest will applaud wildly when you serve a plate of pasta in Marinara Sauce that's topped with a cutlet of crispy coated chicken and melted mozzarella cheese. Why don't you go all the way and croon a tune when you serve it, like an old-school Italian waiter. And don't forget to put out a straw-wrapped jug of Chianti!

When I cook a classic entree, you know I'm bound to stray and give you some tasty cheap$kate shortcuts and recipe improvements? My Chicken Parmesan recipe video below does all that.

Italian-style Chicken Parmesan is a sauteed, breaded chicken fillet that's covered in Marinara Sauce and topped with parmesan and mozzarella cheese, then baked. It's decadent and delicious.

This is a two part recipe. First you make a Marinara Sauce with tomato, onion, garlic and herbs. Of course, you can take a shortcut and use any favorite jars or cans of store-bought pasta sauce.

Secondly, you coat a boneless and skinless chicken fillet in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, and saute it until golden brown. Then you move the cooked chicken into a baking pan and add the Marinara Sauce and cheeses, and bake until piping hot. There's a small amount of assembly to do, but it's well worth it.

This is where I veer off course. For cheapness sake I use dark meat. Normally the recipe calls for white breast meat. But, the main difference in preparation is I don't pound thin the chicken fillet. I find that if you want a crispy brown coating and moist chicken, then a thin slice of breast meat will dry out too easily.

It's a problem I find when ordering Tonkatsu (breaded chicken or pork cutlets) at a Japanese restaurant, or Mexican Torta Milanese sandwiches (flour-coated thin sliced beef or chicken) - dry and chewy overcooked meat. I mean it's okay, but not something I order often. I guess it's a cheap way to make a small cut of meat look larger?

Now, I'm all for tradition, but this one doesn't fly with me. Why not just leave the chicken fillet alone - it will stay moist when thick, and especially so, when dark meat is used. Of course you can use white meat, as it's easier to remove from the bone. (And, if you want to pound the chicken fillet between sheets of plastic, then go for it.)

I guess if you flash-fry a pounded-thin breaded piece of meat then it may remain moist, but it becomes easier to burn the coating over a very high heat, and you have to watch it too closely. So I like to keep things easy and simple. 

The one thing you may not have on hand is breadcrumbs. You only need a cup and you can cover 3 pieces with this recipe. I always find a container of breadcrumbs at my local 99c only Stores. They even sometimes carry expensive Panko. You can use any you find cheaply, or make your own. Just scroll down to Hindsight, at the end of this post, for my Homemade Breadcrumbs recipe.

Chicken is cheap out here is Los Angeles, especially in Latin grocery stores. Boneless and skinless dark meat is often on sale there, and even white meat with the skin and bone is around a dollar per pound on sale.

I also include an easy to make Marinara Sauce recipe in my video using canned tomato as the base. Of course, canned tomatoes are cheap almost anywhere. You can use any you find on sale. If they are whole tomatoes, then break them up when cooking - you'll have a "rustic" Marinara Sauce.

I also use fresh garden herbs, but you can substitute dried Italian herbs. You can even buy your favorite premade sauce and just use that. (My Easy Marinara Sauce recipe is a stand-alone video blog post you can checkout here - use it with any favorite pasta recipe.)

And this recipe is wife approved. I turned my back for a minute and one of my finished Chicken Parmesan went missing! Oh well, that's why I made three breaded cutlets for this recipe.

Do give my recipe a try. It's luscious with melted cheese and a rich tomato sauce. Go ahead and serve it with your favorite pasta and extra leftover Marinara Sauce, it's one filling Italian entree, that's cheap to do, if you do it my way.

Chicken Parmesan  - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 6 minutes, 7 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Breaded Chicken Ingredients -3 servings
3 pieces chicken - skinless and boneless. I used leg and thigh meat. Okay to use white meat. Usually recipe calls for chicken breast that is pounded flat. I find it dries out too easily, so I skip the "flattening" part.
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup bread crumbs - my homemade breadcrumb recipe is down below under "Hindsight."
1 egg - mixed with a fork or whisk.
3 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese - dried or fresh shaved. You can use as much as you like.
3 ounces of Mozzarella Cheese - add more to your liking. I used a small package of shredded.
1/2 teaspoon black pepper - to season breadcrumbs. Okay to add any favorite seasonings or dried herbs. I don't use salt in this recipes, as I find the cheeses have enough for me.
Oil for sauteing breaded chicken pieces - I add a couple of tablespoons per chicken piece. Add more as needed.

Marinara Sauce Ingredients
1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce - any favorite brand, even from a jar.
1/2 onion - chopped. White or yellow is okay.
1 teaspoon garlic - chopped fresh or from a jar.
1 cup water - to clean out the tomato can, and add it to sauce. Okay to use red or white wine, or a favorite broth.
Italian herbs - about 1 teaspoon dried, or 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped. I used basil, oregano and parsley. Okay to use a dried herb Italian premix, or any combination of dried herbs you have on hand.
1 tablespoon oil - for frying onion and garlic.
Pepper to taste - Canned tomato sauce has a lot of salt, so I don't add any, but you can add some if you want.

Directions for Marinara Sauce
I start this recipe with a Marinara Sauce. I used a plain can of tomato sauce and added some sauteed onion, garlic and herbs. Here's how I did it.(You can use any store bought type you like as a short cut -- if you do, go right to my Breading Chicken directions further below.)

First saute 1/2 chopped onion in a tablespoon of oil over a medium heat. Cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add chopped garlic and saute another minute.

Pour in a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce. Slosh around half a can of water (broth or wine) and add it to the pan with sauce and sauteed veggies. Mix well and finally add the herbs, fresh or dried.

Cook tomato sauce on low, while you are frying up the breaded chicken pieces. You just need to cook the pasta sauce for another 10 minutes, so all the flavors combine. This basic Marinara Sauce can used for any pasta recipe, or pizza topping.

Directions for Breading Chicken (3 pieces)
This is where my recipe veers off from others. Typical Chicken Parmesan recipes take a chicken breast and pound it thin. While this is traditional, you often end up with a dried out piece of breaded chicken.

As I mentioned above, the main problem is browning the coated chicken thin pieces. To get a golden brown breaded chicken you have to overcook it.

For my recipe I just leave the boneless and skinless pieces alone. They may be thick, but at least they will end up moist on the serving plate. (Of course, you can place the chicken pieces between plastic wrap and pound them a little thinner.)

Let's move on to the breaded chicken part.

You want to have 2 plates, one for the flour and the other for breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on black pepper or any favorite seasonings into the breadcrumbs.

In a shallow bowl add one egg and beat it with a fork, or a whisk, to blend it.

First coat a chicken piece in flour, both sides. Add coated chicken to egg wash and coat it again. Finally press chicken into breadcrumbs. Turn over and press on more breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Add cooking oil in a frying pan over medium/high heat. Depending on your frying pan size you can saute each coated chicken piece separately or bunch up a few pieces.

You need at least 2 tablespoons of oil per chicken piece - add more oil as needed, during frying process. Make sure the pan is hot when you add the chicken, or the breading may stick to the pan.

Add coated chicken to a medium hot pan. Let it set there for a minute so cooked shell forms underneath chicken. After a minute or so you can start checking to see how browning is going. It takes about 3-5 minutes on each side, for chicken to brown nicely and the meat to cook through.

When done set aside each  fillet. (Make a small slice into thickest part of cooked chicken to make sure there is no pink meat or pink juices.) I put cooked pieces on a wire rack; I find napkins get too damp and make the cooked crust soggy. After the chicken pieces are done, it's time to bring it all together.

(If you want some pasta with the Chicken Parmesan, then get it going when you start frying the last coated chicken piece. Follow package directions. Set aside pasta when done. You can serve it with some leftover Marinara Sauce.)

The Marinara Sauce should be room temperature or hot when assembling Chicken Parmesan.

First, move fried chicken to a baking dish. Top each piece with some Marinara Sauce. You can add as little, or as much, as you like. I add just enough to cover each chicken piece. (Any extra sauce can be added to the plate later or used as pasta topping.)

Now add the parmesan and mozzarella cheese to each chicken piece. Add as much cheese, as you like -- you can also add extra Marinara Sauce.

Add baking dish of Chicken Parmesan to a 375 degree oven. You just need to bake the chicken until the cheese melts. I baked mine for about 10-15 minutes.

It's ready when Chicken Parmesan cheese topping is melted. You can serve Chicken Parmesan with your favorite pasta and leftover Marinara Sauce.

To make your own dried breadcrumbs, bake a few slices of white or wheat bread in a 350 degree oven for about 15 - 20 minutes until dried out. Check during the last five minutes to make sure the bread does not burn. Turn the bread slice over, half way through baking.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes; then add to a blender or food processor. (Or place in a plastic bag and crumble with a rolling pin, wine bottle or large glass). Pulse slices until fine like sea salt. Leftover bread crumbs store in the refrigerator for a long time. May need to microwave for a minute when reusing, or give them a quick saute in a warm pan.

For extra flavor season the bread slices with salt, pepper, dried parmesan, and any favorite fresh or dried herbs.

And, here's a Dean Martin a crooning "That's Amore"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rice with Poblano Chili Peppers

Poblano chili peppers are the most versatile Mexican chili pepper. They are used for stuffed Chile Rellenos and when dried (called an "ancho chile") makes a  Red Chili salsa. And, I like to stuff them like a bell pepper (my recipe here.)

A pastilla pepper is another name for poblano pepper.

For most of my Latin recipes I make Mexican Rice using tomato sauce. But, I like to mix it up, so here's my Rice with Poblano Chili Peppers recipe.

Poblanos are mild for a chili. They are larger than familiar hot chilis, about the size of a bell pepper, so you only need a couple to make this recipe. And at Latin markets they come cheap. Look for pastilla or poblano peppers, they are the same thing.

I blacken them on my gas stove top burner. It only takes a few minutes to do, but use thongs so you don't burn yourself. You do have to watch and turn them as they burn. Next, you cover the heated chilis and allow the skin to soften, so you can peel off the blackened skin, which reveals the tender, smokey, green flesh.

Now, you know that rice is a good deal, especially at Oriental and Latin grocery stores. The other ingredients, garlic and onion, come cheaply.

If you are into Mexican food then give my Rice with Poblano Chili Peppers a try. It's a delicious change of pace over boring white rice or typical tomato sauced rice.

And, just click on the following entrees to see one of my blog post recipes that will pair perfectly with my Rice with Poblano Chili Peppers side dish: Pozole, Calabsitas, Fish Veracruz, Cactus Quesadilla, Charro Beans, Pollo en Mente (Mint Chicken), Stuffed Poblano Chiles, Salmon Enchiladas, Fish Tacos, Albondigas Soup, Mexi/Turkey Burger, Carne Asada (steak) Taco, Carnitas (pork) Taco, Mole Chicken, Mexican Chorizo and Eggs, Scrambled Eggs with Refried Beans, and a hearty Breakfast Burrito,

  • 2 poblano chili peppers
  • 1 cup of rice - white or brown
  • 1/2 onion - chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic - chopped, fresh or from jar.
  • 1 tablespoon of oil - to saute onion.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 and 3/4 cups water - or follow package directions if brown rice is used.

Char poblano peppers on stove top. I have a gas stove so it's pretty easy to do. You can blacken peppers in a pan on an electric stove top. It takes longer to do. Place poblano on the gas grill with fire on medium/high. Be careful and rotate poblano as it blackens. You don't need to blacken the total surface - charring half the surface is good enough.

Place blackened poblano peppers in a bowl and cover it with a plate, so the skin will continue to steam. This will make it easier to rub off the burnt skin. Let the cooked peppers set covered about 5 minutes.

While peppers steam covered, saute chopped onion in your rice pot with a tablespoon of oil. Saute about 5 minutes to soften. Add chopped garlic to cooked onions and saute another minute.

Add a cup of rice and saute it with the onion for another 5 minutes. (You can skip this stage if you are in a hurry.)

While rice is cooking you can rub off blacken skin from poblano peppers. Open the peppers and remove seeds and the stem. Give the peppers a quick rinse of water to get the remaining blackened bits. You don't have to remove all the char, though - it's extra flavor.

Next, add the cooked, chopped, poblano peppers.

Add 1 and 3/4 cups of water (or follow rice package directions.) If you have a preferred way to cook rice, then do it your way. Salt and pepper to taste.

 Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Cook about 20 minutes covered.

After the rice is cooked, uncover the pot and give the rice a stir. Cover the pot again and let it set another 10-15 minutes. This will give all the rice a chance to cook evenly.

Rice freezes well, so make plenty to serve with my other Mexican recipes, anytime.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Split Pea Soup with Ham - Video Recipe

My hearty Green Split Pea Soup with a leftover ham bone will have you coming back for seconds...and thirds! Be sure to check out my recipe video below to see what I mean.

I was never a fan of Split Pea Soup as a kid because it was usually served from a Campbell's soup can. It's much better when you can control the seasoning and fresh veggie additions yourself. And it doesn't hurt to have tender chunks of ham mixed into the soup.

I always get a large cooked half-ham during Easter week, because that's when it's cheapest. Cooked ham freezes well, so the first thing I do is slice it into single servings and reserve the ham bone. Meat closest to the bone is difficult to remove, so just leave it on. Once the ham bone is simmering in the pea soup for an hour it will easily peel off.

All the other ingredients are cheap too, like onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Of course, you can keep this pea soup vegetarian by leaving out the ham. Just substitute some water with a cup or two of your favorite veggie stock, for extra flavor.

I use cheap dried green peas from my local 99c only Store for this recipe. I've also seen yellow peas that you can cook the same way.

What I like about dried green peas is how quick they cook. It only takes about an hour to become a thick creamy soup. Other dried legumes like pinto, navy or black beans take 3 to 4 hours of slow simmering. Green Pea Soup with Ham is almost instant gratification.

My Green Pea Soup with Ham is easy to do, it just takes a little veggie chopping. It's the kind of one pot meal that's even better the next day, and you can freeze a few servings, too.

So give my latest cheapskate recipe a try, just check out my simply delicious video below, and leave a comment if you like it!

Split Pea Soup with Ham  - VIDEO

 Play it here, video runs 3 minutes, 36 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Ingredients (4-6 servings)
  • 1 pound dried green split peas - about 2 cups. Rinse and check for discolored ones or any small foreign object.
  • 1 ham bone - leftover from a whole ham. Okay to use a ham hock, a thick ham slice or a couple slices of bacon (saute bacon and pour off some of the fat.)
  • 1 onion - chopped, about 2 cups.
  • 1 stalk celery - chopped, about 1/2 cup. I cut off a bit of discolored tough root end. I also remove some of the strings on the topside of celery stalk. You can remove strings with a knife or a potato peeler - don't worry about removing them all.
  • 1 carrot - chopped, about 1 cup.
  • 1 teaspoon garlic - chopped. Fresh, dried or from a jar.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • Black pepper to taste - ham has enough salt for me. Add salt if you are going vegetarian.
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil - to saute veggies.
  • 8 cups of water - for cooking pea soup. For vegetarian, substitute some water with veggie broth.

Chop 1 whole onion, about 2 cups when chopped. One clove of garlic (about a teaspoon chopped.)

Peel whole carrot and chop, about 1 cup. Okay to use shredded carrot or baby carrots.

Use a whole stalk of celery, chopped. I include the green leaves, if attached. Remove the tip of the white or yellowed end attached to the root.

Click on any photo to see larger.

Add a tablespoon of oil to a large soup pot. Add carrot, onion and celery. Saute over medium heat about 5 minutes to soften.

Next add chopped garlic and saute another minute.

Now add dried herbs to sauteed veggies. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of thyme and one whole bay leaf.

Season with black pepper to taste. I leave out salt, since ham, ham hock, or bacon are salty enough for me. You can add a little more salt if you need to, or if you are making this soup vegetarian.

Now time to bring it all together. While veggies are sauteing go through dried green peas to remove any debris. I hardly ever find any.

Add dried green peas. Pour in 8 cups of water. If you are keeping it vegetarian, then replace some of the water with vegetable stock, for extra flavor.

Add a ham bone, ham hock, or a few slices of cooked bacon (include some of the bacon grease, too!)

Mix well, increase the heat and bring soup to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the soup pot.

Cook covered for an hour, until the peas are fall-apart tender. Green peas will turn to a thick sauce, and that's okay.

Remove ham bone or ham hock. Allow to cool for a few minutes, while peas cook uncovered. Finally, remove meat and add back into the soup. Stir a final time, and reheat the ham pieces for a few more minutes.

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