May 28, 2010

Weeknight Chicken Parmesan

Ready in 15 minutes, without the fuss.

Since my nightly cooking is just for M and myself, I am not exactly willing to jump through hoops every evening to produce dinner for two. Maybe later on when I'm feeding a family of four or five, sure, but for now it simply doesn't seem reasonable (or very green) to light the oven, have three pots going on the stove and four separate cutting boards all over the place on a regular basis (though that certainly does happen often).

So, I'm always looking for more energy-friendly, time-efficient ways to cook the same meal that would take all of the above effort and clean up. Most chicken parmesan recipes that are healthy involve baking the chicken in the oven. My shortcut, cooking it on the stovetop, is just as healthy and far faster than using the big old oven to cook a couple of cutlets. 

I also shortcut on the breading method by using light mayo as the "glue" for the breadcrumbs. Thus, I skip the whole ordeal of beating an egg in a separate dish, throwing most of the egg out anyway, and having yet another item to wash later (I know, I'm being super picky about the process, but I hate wasting food and  having tons of clean up). Anyway, the result is a deliciously browned, pan-fried chicken parm meal that's ready in no time at all. Boil the pasta while the chicken is busy getting crispy in the pan, heat a bowl of sauce in the microwave at the same time, and that's about all there is to it!

Weeknight Chicken Parmesan & Pasta: (serves 2)
For the chicken:
2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 1 large
4 T. light mayonnaise
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 T. dried Italian seasoning
salt & pepper
1 T. olive oil
2 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced

For the pasta:
1 cup gemelli or other pasta
1.5 cups prepared homemade tomato sauce (or jarred sauce)

Salt the pasta water in a medium pot and set to boil.

Meanwhile, pound the chicken breasts to 1/2 inch thin with a meat tenderizer on a cutting board between two sheets of wax paper. Blot dry with a paper towel to ensure that the mayo will stick. Using a knife or a spatula, coat each chicken breast evenly with the mayo. In a shallow dish, combine the grated parmesan, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and a bit of salt and pepper. Dredge each chicken cutlet in the coating, pressing to ensure that it sticks evenly.

Preheat olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers and the pan is hot. Place each cutlet down in the pan, ensuring that there is enough room around each one for vapors to evaporate. Do not move the cutlets -- allow them to brown evenly for 4-5 minutes on one side.

Check your pasta water: add the gemelli and allow to boil until al dente.
Put the sauce in the microwave, covered, and heat for 4 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Gently flip your chicken over to the other side. Allow to cook for 3 minutes. Then top with slices of mozzarella and turn the heat off. Allow the mozzarella to melt over the chicken parmesan while you drain the pasta. Plate the pasta, then place the chicken parmesan over it. Top with pasta sauce and bring the remaining sauce to the table for extras. Enjoy!

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