What’s the perfect ending to a perfect spring day? The perfect dinner, outside, of course. What’s the perfect outside dinner? Parmesan chicken topped with a simple salad dressed in lemon vinaigrette. There’s really no witty story or commentary behind this recipe. Last Sunday, I just happened to spend a lovely homework-free day in good company. I literally forgot I was in grad school for they day, and as I rode this wave of contented delirium, this recipe popped in my head. I saw Ina Garten make it for Mel Brooks on Barefoot Contessa a while back. If it is good enough for Mel Brooks, it is good enough to complete my perfect spring day.
The gist: pounded out chicken breasts, coated in Parmesan and panko breadcrumbs, and sautéed. Then you top it with a simple salad, and eat perfect morsels of lemony greens with crispy chicken. It doesn’t take too long to make, and it’s perfect for warm weather because you only need to have the stove on for about 10-15 minutes. Eating this dinner outside definitely makes it taste better, and I do have a witness.
Parmesan Chicken (adapted from Ina Garten's recipe)
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (the crumbly kind you find at the grocery store)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
For the salad:
Salad greens for two (I used about 2/3 of a bag of spring mix)
Juice of one lemon
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
About ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Extra parm for garnish
· First order of business: make the chicken breasts thin (about ¼ inch thick) to make them more tender and quick cooking.
· You can do this by pounding them out with the flat side of a meat mallet, the bottom of a skillet, or a rolling pin. Put the chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap to contain the mess.
· Or you can butterfly them first, and then pound them out (my preferred method), but if you’re not very comfortable with a knife go with the other method. To butterfly, I place the palm of my hand on the chicken breast, and press down to stabilize it. Then with my Santoku knife sideways, I slowly work it through the middle of the chicken. The result is two thin pieces. Then I pound.
· Mix together panko, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl. Taste for seasoning.
· In another large shallow bowl, beat the two eggs with a splash of water (about a couple of teaspoons).
· First dip the chicken in the beaten egg, then the panko mixture. Press the chicken into the panko for an even coating. Proceed with the rest of the chicken. [This can be done a couple of hours in advance. Separate layers of chicken with wax paper and refrigerate.]
· In a large skillet, preheat a shallow layer of olive oil (about 3 tablespoons) over medium-high heat. When it’s good and hot, add the chicken in a single layer. Cook in batches if necessary. The chicken should sizzle. Cook for about four minutes, and then flip. Continue cooking until the chicken is firm to the touch and cooked through (nicely browned, too). If you are cooking the chicken in batches, be sure to add more olive oil to the pan.
· While the chicken cooks, make the dressing. Whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon, salt, and pepper. Then slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil while whisking.
· When the chicken is reading, lightly dress the greens with the vinaigrette. Mound salad on top of chicken breasts, and top with more Parmesan.