Cooking On A Budget: Chicken Cutlet Parmesan

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chicken Cutlet Parmesan


When you are cooking on a budget you always have to go back to what you have on hand and build dinners around that.  I had about 2 cups or so of spaghetti sauce in the freezer and a half a bag of shredded mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator so dinner became Chicken Cutlet Parmesan. For the chicken I picked up a package of thin cut chicken breasts. There were 5 cutlets in the package and the cost was $6.21. Cost per person: $1.24.  Should you choose to purchase regular boneless skinless breasts I suggest that you do one of two things:
  1. With a meat mallet pound each breast down to about 1/2 inch or less - making the thicker end equal to the tail end.
  2. Or, take off the tail end and split the thicker end lengthwise making 2 equal portions.  Save the thinner end for another dinner altogether.
Owning my own restaurant of foods to go allowed me the opportunity to cook many different homestyle dinners. The chicken dinners were always winners.  I had a woman who ended up becoming a regular and always came in especially if the dinner had chicken in it.  Her lifestyle was hectic so she ate out quite often and during one of her visits to pick up dinner she remarked that my chicken was overall better than she got elsewhere.  This particular customer said most places the chicken ended up tough and not moist and juicy.  So she asked what it was that I did differently than other places.

Honestly, I think it lends to the preparation of the chicken and knowing how long to cook the chicken.So with this recipe I would like you to follow these preparations:
  1. Make sure you wash the chicken in cold water and pat it completely dry.
  2. Remove the yellowish/white tendon which generally runs along side the boneless and skinless breast and cut out any remaining muscle in that area with a fillet knife. (A paring knife or steak knife works also.)
  3. If there is any "silver skin" you need to remove that as well. Silver skin is that gray, almost clear filmy and slick skin on the breast.
  4. Keep in mind that for this dinner you will be coating the chicken in a bread crumb mixture and pan searing it prior to finishing the cooking time in the oven.
  • 1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts (thin cut)
  • 2 cups or so spaghetti sauce
  • 4 ounces (half of an 8 oz. bag) of shredded Mozzarella Cheese (Monterrey Jack Cheese also works)
  • 2 - 3 tbsp. Butter
  • 1-2 tbsp. Olive Oil (or any oil you have on hand is fine)
  • Cooking spray such as Pam (to coat a 13 x 9 glass baking dish)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
For the breading station combine all of the following in one dish:
  • 1 cup dried plain bread crumbs or crushed panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus 1/3 cup or so to use on top of the chicken later on.
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt or 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
For the egg station in a separate dish whisk together the following:
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. water
  1. Lightly sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Dip the chicken breast in the egg mixture, then in the seasoned bread crumbs and set them on a plate.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and while the oven is preheating, brown the chicken breasts.
  3. In a skillet or frying pan over medium to medium high heat, melt two tablespoons of butter and one tbsp.of olive oil. When the butter starts to bubble add in the chicken and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side until they are golden brown.  Adjust your heat as necessary so they do not burn.  Cook in two batches and add the last tablespoon of olive oil if necessary.
  4. Arrange the chicken in a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish that has been coated with the cooking spray and add a bit of sauce to the bottom. Top each breast with a generous amount of the spaghetti sauce. Top the sauce with more of the grated Parmesan cheese and the shredded Mozzarella cheese.
  5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes in the oven. After 20 minutes check to see if the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Bake for an additional 5 minutes if necessary.

This recipe feeds 4-5 people and I suggest serving it with a side salad and/or pasta (if you have extra sauce). My other suggestion would be a medley of sauteed vegetables like eggplant and zucchini.
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