Sunday, May 17, 2020

Day 63, Red Sauce Italian, Quarantine Kitchen

Quarantine has seen us drinking a bit more wine, and an addiction to this drink the Aperol Spritz.  It's refreshing, bubbling, and great at the end of the day (or anytime, really)  I first had this when our British friends made one for us in their rental villa in Spello.  Since then, whenever we have one, we toast our friends and thank them for their inspiration.   
My roots are from Umbria in the center of Italy, and I tend to cook what I know, mainly Italian foods.  But there is a sub-genre here in the US that I refer to as "red-sauce Italian".  You know what I'm talking about, it's the funny little pizzeria that sells some pasta with a ton of red sauce on the top and baseball-sized meatballs, or that place in your neighborhood that bills itself as an Italian restaurant, but you'd never find any of the food they serve in Italy. Let me state here, that these places are fine if you recognize what they are---but don't say that it's Italian food---it's kind of like the people who go to Vegas and stay at the Venetian and then say that they don't need to go to Venice. 
That leads me to our dinner the other night, Chicken Parmigiana.  In the 20+ years, we have been going to Italy I've never seen this on the menu in Italy, EVER.  But it's comfort food, simple to make ahead, and then pop into the oven.  This one made enough for a crowd, we ate it for dinner, and I had two other casseroles that I sent home to friends.   So if you embark on this journey, just know that you can have another in the freezer, or you can share.  As always, know your audience, if you have a gang of big eaters, this will serve 6 to 8 easily. 

Chicken Parmigiano
Serves 6 to 8

For the Sauce
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
two 28-ounce cans tomato puree, or chopped tomatoes and their juice
salt and pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil, add the garlic and onion, and saute until the onion begins to soften about 3 minutes.  

                       Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes.  

                                    Add the herbs, and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  

The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 6 months.  
This sauce will give you enough to sauce the chicken, if you would like to use it for saucing pasta on the side, make 1 1/2 times the amount.  

For the Chicken and Assembly

3 large eggs
2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper
4 chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 cups panko crumbs
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Vegetable Oil for frying
8 ounces whole milk mozzarealla, sliced
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano

In a mixing bowl, whisk otgether the eggs, water, salt and pepper.
Put the chicken on a cutting board, and slice horizontally into 3 portions each.  Transfer to the egg mixture.  
In a shallow dish, combine the panko, cheese, basil and oregano.  
Dip the chicken into the panko mixture and transfer to a 13-by-9-inch pan, repeating with the remaining chicken.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  
Pour 2 inches of vegetable oil into a large skillet, and heat to 325 degrees.  Fry the chicken until just golden brown on each side, drain on paper toweling.  

Coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  
Spread a thin layer of the sauce into the pan.  Top with the chicken.  Spread some of the sauce over each piece of chicken, top with some of the mozzarella and sprinkle the entire casserole with the shredded cheese.  
There are 6 pieces in here, you should have a total of 12 pieces, so you'll need another casserole dish

At this point, the casserole can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours, or frozen for up to 2 months.  
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, cook uncovered for 25 to 35 minutes until the cheese is melted, and the sauce is bubbling. 
Serve with pasta, risotto or focaccia.  

I realize there are a few steps to making this, but it all comes together, and you've got a great meal for your family.  If you can't find fresh herbs for the sauce, use 1/3 the amount of dried herbs.  
Today is day 63, not sure what is happening in California tomorrow, I believe there will be some opening up, but still shelter in place.  We are so fortunate to have enough food, we are well and our family is safe.  That's all we can ask for at this point.  Stay safe, stay well, and stay home if you can.  

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