A Lighter Chicken Parmigiana

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Ohhh Chicken Parmigiana how I love thee! The yummy breaded chicken, the mouthwatering marinara sauce, the melted mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano, the copious amounts of fat produced from the oil and cheeses – oh wait never mind.

Unfortunately the large amount of fat within the dish is not the only drawback of this meal. There are others too…like the way the breading would get soggy and the chicken would become overcooked from baking forever under a pool of marinara sauce. I know, I know…I’m bumming everyone out about Chicken Parm – and in all honesty I was turned off from this otherwise delicious tasting dinner for a long time as well. I just couldn’t bring myself to ever order it for all those reasons above.

That’s when I decided to figure out a way to resolve all of these typical Chicken Parmigiana issues so I could once again enjoy this dish on special occasions – let’s face it, Chicken Parmigiana was never meant to be competition food!

So the first thing that I did was to remove the baking process entirely, opting instead to brown and cook the chicken in several teaspoons of olive oil in a nonstick pan, which helps to prevent the breading from sticking and allows me to use a small amount of olive oil while still enabling the crust to form. Secondly, I sub the full-fat mozzarella for its part-skim sister and use my healthy homemade Marinara Sauce, topping the chicken with both at the end of cooking to preserve the crust that I just created. I then quickly broil the chicken for several minutes to melt the cheese and heat the marinara. And there you go – a lighter, less guilty version that also tastes great!

For this recipe you will need boneless skinless chicken breasts, dried seasoned breadcrumbs, fresh parsley, all-purpose flour, eggs, kosher salt, cracked black pepper, homemade marinara sauce (for a great homemade recipe try my Go-To Marinara Sauce) or you can use your favorite store-bought brand, fresh part-skim mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano.

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The first thing that you will need to do is to pound out the chicken breasts so that they are about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick throughout. If you prefer smaller cutlet sized pieces then you can halve each breast to create cutlets instead of pounding them out – I just find the larger pieces to be prettier and, more importantly, less work overall!

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Create a 3 bowl breading station using one flat surface bowl for flour, 1 teaspoon salt/pepper, and minced parsley; one round bowl for eggs and egg whites; and one flat surface bowl for seasoned breadcrumbs.

Take the pounded out breasts and season them with kosher salt and pepper on both sides then run them through the breading stations; dredging each chicken breast through the flour first, followed by the eggs, and lastly through the seasoned breadcrumbs. Lay the breaded chicken aside for a minute to rest while preparing a large 13-inch oven safe nonstick fry pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. (Using a nonstick pan will allow you to use the least amount of olive oil possible yet still enable the development of a golden crust on the chicken without it sticking.)

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When the pan is hot, sauté and brown the breaded chicken for several minutes, flipping it over when the bottom crust is deep golden and crispy. Before flipping, drizzle some more olive oil over the uncooked breadcrumbs (the top uncooked side of the chicken) so that they can brown as well. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for another 4-6 minutes or until the breasts are 95 percent cooked through. (Note: If the crust browns too quickly before the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat and continue onto the next step. You will be able to bake the chicken in the oven for a couple minutes to fully cook it (if needed) once it is covered with the marinara and cheese – I will give more details below!)

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Once the chicken is browned, crispy and cooked, turn off the heat and place a large dollop of marinara sauce over each of the breasts, making sure to spread the sauce into an even layer over the chicken. Follow that up with chunks of fresh part-skim mozzarella, evenly dispersed over each chicken breast. I like to tear off fairly large chunks so that they drip off the chicken when melting – yummm! Lastly grate some parmigiano-reggiano over each of the breasts.

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Transfer the pan to the oven and broil for 3-5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese has melted and begun to brown.  For this I usually set my broiler to 500-550 degrees F. Make sure to keep an eye on the broiling process as it can go from amazingly delicious to your house is burning down in minutes!

NOTE: As mentioned above, if you find that the chicken isn’t fully cooked by the time the breadcrumb crust has browned, turn off the heat and cover the breasts with marinara, mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano (as in the previous step above). However, instead of moving directly to the broiling portion you can finish cooking the chicken first in the oven at 450 degrees F for 5 minutes or until the breasts are fully cooked through. THEN switch the oven to broil in order to brown and finish melting the cheese. Again keep one eye on the broiling process – it should only take a couple of minutes!

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Carefully remove the now very hot pan from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. Serve this tasty Chicken Parmigiana alongside some quinoa pasta – Adam’s preferred way – or with a Greek Salad – the way I like to eat it. Either way this dish will make you feel a little less guilty about your next Chicken Parm indulgence!

A lighter Chicken Parmigiana
Author: 
Recipe type: Chicken Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 chicken breasts
 
Ingredients
  • 4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1-2 cups dried Italian breadcrumbs (Brand: 4C Seasoned Breadcrumbs) for dredging
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1-2 cups all-purpose flour for dredging
  • 2 extra-large eggs for dredging
  • 1 extra-large egg white for dredging
  • 2-3 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
  • part-skim fresh mozzarella, torn into large chunks
  • parmigiano-reggiano, grated
  • kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Pound out chicken breasts so they are about ½ inch thick and season both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Create 3 bowl breading station using one flat surface bowl for flour, 1 teaspoon salt/pepper, and minced parsley; one round bowl for eggs and egg white; and one flat surface bowl for seasoned breadcrumbs.
  4. Dredge each chicken breast through the flour first, followed by the eggs, and lastly through the breadcrumbs. Set aside for a couple minutes.
  5. Heat a 13-in oven safe nonstick fry pan with 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat.
  6. Sauté and brown the chicken breasts for 4-6 minutes on one side or until crust is golden and crispy.
  7. Drizzle uncooked side of chicken with some olive oil, lower heat to medium, then flip and cook the second side for 4-6 minutes or until breast are 95 percent cooked through. (Note: If crust browns too quickly before chicken is cooked, turn off heat and continue onto next step. You will be able to bake the chicken in the oven to fully cook it once it is covered with the marinara and cheese.)
  8. Turn off heat and add a large dollop of marinara over each chicken breast, spreading it into an even layer over the chicken.
  9. Tear chunks of fresh mozzarella and place on top of each breast.
  10. Grate desired amount of parmigiano-reggiano over each breast.
  11. Place fry pan in oven and broil for 2-5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and cheese is fully melted and beginning to brown. (OPTIONAL: If chicken is still undercooked yet crust is browned - bake chicken parmigiana first at the pre-prepped 450 degrees F until chicken is cooked through then turn oven to broil to melt and brown cheese.)
  12. Carefully remove pan from oven to cool slightly. HANDLE WILL BE VERY HOT!
  13. Serve Chicken Parmigiana hot alongside quinoa pasta or salad.

 

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