Spicy Chicken Parm

Serves 4.

Note: Thanks to a recipe from chef Michael Schlow of Alta Strada, which has two locations in the D.C. area, we’ve updated this typically saucy Italian-American staple to be brighter, spicier and neater. Individually saucing the cutlets and finishing them under a hot broiler offers several benefits. They’re easier to serve to each person and can easily be placed on a bed of greens or atop spaghetti. Slide the cutlet onto a hearty roll for a chicken Parm sandwich? Absolutely. The cutlets are cooked in batches and assembled on a baking sheet, so this recipe can be easily scaled up to feed a crowd. Panko breadcrumbs are larger and lighter than the traditional crumb, which could be substituted. From the Washington Post.

• 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (8 to 11 oz. each)

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs

• Pinch dried rosemary

• Pinch dried thyme

• 1/2 c. dried breadcrumbs

• 1/2 c. flour

• 1 egg, beaten with a splash of water

• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1/4 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 c.)

• 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

• 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

• 1 (28-oz.) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained (reserve the juices) and coarsely crushed by hand

• 10 to 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

• 4 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil, or more as needed

• 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese

• 4 thin slices fresh mozzarella (about 4 oz. total)

• Minced fresh parsley, for garnish, optional)


For the chicken: Use a sharp knife to cut horizontally through each breast half. Move the knife through so the meat eventually opens like a book. Separate the 2 halves. Trim and discard any visible fat or skin. Place a chicken cutlet between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Then, using a meat tenderizer or small cast-iron skillet, pound the cutlets until they are 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with each cutlet. Pat the chicken dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.

In a food processor, combine the panko, rosemary and thyme along with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. The herbs and panko should be somewhat broken down, but not pulverized into a fine powder.

Combine the panko mixture with the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl or dish (pie plates work well). Place the flour in another dish and the egg mixture in a third. Dip 1 cutlet into the flour, coating both sides and shaking off any excess. Then, dip it into the egg, coating both sides, and allowing excess to drip off. Drop the cutlet into the panko mixture and coat the chicken on both sides. The coating will be relatively thin. Place the cutlet on a baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining 3 cutlets. Then, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to help set the breading while you make the sauce.

For the sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened and partially translucent. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until fragrant.

Add the crushed tomatoes and about 3 tablespoons of their juices, or just enough to make sure the mixture looks more saucy than dry. Allow to almost come to a boil (it should start bubbling almost immediately). Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the basil, and remove the sauce from the heat.

For assembly: Position the rack a few inches from the oven broiler heating element, and turn the broiler to high.

Heat 4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels.

Once the oil shimmers — it will almost ripple — place 2 of the cutlets in the pan (laying them away from you, so the end closest to you hits the pan first), leaving room between them. Cook for about 2 1/2 minutes, until they are golden brown and crisp on the bottom, gently pressing down on the cutlets with a wide spatula to help ensure even browning. If you get hot spots in the pan or if your oil is pooling on the sides, give the skillet a gentle shake to move things around.

Use a fork to turn over the cutlets (tongs may dislodge the breading); cook until the meat feels firm and the second side is deep golden brown and crisp, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, reducing the heat as needed to keep the breading from burning. The internal temperature of the meat should register 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer; there should be no trace of pink in the center. Transfer the cutlets to the lined plate.

If you reduced the heat during the cooking of the first batch, return it to medium-high, adding more oil as needed; once the oil is shimmering, repeat with the remaining 2 cutlets.

Transfer the cutlets to a baking sheet. Divide the sauce evenly among the cutlets, allowing some of the breading to peek through at the edges. (If the chicken pieces are on the smaller side, you may have extra sauce, which can be served for dipping.) Sprinkle each cutlet with 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, and place 1 slice mozzarella on top. Broil for 1 to 3 minutes, or just until the cheese has melted and browned in a few spots.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 560 Fat 34 g

Sodium 570 mg Carbohydrates 20 g

Saturated fat 8 g Total sugars 7 g

Protein 40 g Cholesterol 135 mg

Dietary fiber 4 g