On a lazy Sunday this past weekend, I asked the hubby what he’d like to eat for dinner. “I’ll make you anything you want,” I said.
He paused for a long moment. A really long moment. “Anything?” he asked incredulously.
I thought something was wrong at first, but I quickly realized why he was questioning me. The poor guy has indulged over a year’s worth of dietary cravings, hormones and general craziness, ranging from the night we wandered the streets of KL in search of a deli sandwich (while big, sobby tears rolled quietly down my face) to losing his share of a steak before dinner. During that time, his meal suggestions were greeted with a polite eye roll to an outright resounding no. One time, he had to throw out a perfectly good spinach salad because I thought it tasted like raw tobacco leaves. Not that I’ve ever eaten raw tobacco leaves, of course.
The hubby asked for chicken parmesan. Chicken parm was the first dish I learned how to make, all by myself, as a freshman in college. I like the slow process involved in making a good chicken parm. Simmering a sauce made from scratch. Putting together an assembly line to bread the chicken. Baking everything in an oven until it’s brown and bubbly.
When I slid a piece onto the hubby’s plate, I heard him breathe an audible sigh of relief and joy. He didn’t look up, not once, until he’d finished eating it. His blissed-out expression remained plastered on his face for the rest of the night, which made my night, too.
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 14-ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1-2 cups bread crumbs
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chopped basil
In a small saucepan, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute garlic and onion until translucent. Add tomatoes and tomato paste to onions and garlic, breaking tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Add cayenne pepper and sugar and reduce heat to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.
While sauce is simmering, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 175 degrees Celsius). Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Place chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/2 inch thickness. In a shallow dish, stir together the beaten egg and milk. In a separate shallow dish, spread out bread crumbs (optional: add 1 teaspoon dried oregano). Prepare another plate with a paper towel for draining oil off the chicken after it’s cooked.
Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, flat saute pan and add enough canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Test the heat of the oil by sprinkling a few drops of water over the pan; if the water sizzles, then the oil is hot enough for you to pan-fry the chicken.
Dip the chicken breasts, one at a time, into the egg and milk mixture, then roll in the bread crumbs. Immediately place chicken in the pan to saute, being careful not to crowd the pan with the chicken (fry in batches if necessary). Turn after 3-4 minutes; if chicken is looking blackened, immediately reduce heat. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes per chicken breast and remove from heat, placing on plate with the paper towel to drain. Continue until all chicken is cooked.
In a lightly greased 9×13 pan, arrange chicken pieces in one layer, then pour thickened tomato sauce over the chicken. Top with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan and bake, covered with aluminum foil, for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly. Top with fresh basil and serve immediately.