During these short yet seemingly endless winter days, nothing is more comforting than a saucy, cheesy homemade casserole. As Mariel enters week number three of nursing a newborn – with its bottomless pit of hunger – I felt compelled to create my own spin on a classic comfort meal.
I am still helping my girl out with her kiddies well into the evening hours, so time spent in the kitchen needs to be more of a short-order experience since there are several hungry – and vocal – mouths to feed right on cue at 530pm.
In the spirit of efficiency, I eschewed creating my own tomato sauce in favor of “doctoring” a jar of marinara that was sitting in the pantry cupboard. I added caramelized onions and garlic to the simple sauce and the dish took less than 30 minutes to prepare. Next time I plan to add mushrooms to this classic Chicken Parmesan recipe and I’ll stow it away in Mariel’s increasingly well-stocked freezer for future dinners!
Chicken Parmesan with Panko Topping
½ cup Panko bread crumbs – $2.49
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese – stock
1 Vidalia onion , diced – $1.14
2 cloves garlic, minced – stock
splash of Balsamic vinegar – stock
3 Tablespoons plus 2 Teaspoons olive oil – stock
2 ½ cups jar Marinara or any favorite tomato sauce – $2.00
1½ cups flour seasoned with salt and pepper – stock
3 eggs beaten with 1½ Tablespoons of water – stock
1 ½ lbs. thin chicken breasts (about 8),flattened with the smooth side of a wooden kitchen mallet – $8.16
¾ lb. fresh or smoked mozzarella, sliced thin – $4.29
Fresh Basil leaves – $0.99
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $19.07
Total Per Serving: $3.18
1. Doctor the jar of sauce, if desired: Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a medium sauté pan. Cook the diced onion over medium-high flame, stirring frequently, until beginning to turn golden. Toss in the minced garlic and cook an additional 5 minutes.
2. Add the splash of Balsamic, stirring constantly, until all of the liquid evaporates, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the mixture to the 2 ½ cups of sauce and set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Combine the Panko crumbs, Parmesan, and the 2 Teaspoons of olive oil. Set aside.
5. In a large skillet heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over a high flame.
6. Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour and shake off.
7. Dip the floured chicken in the beaten egg and drip off.
8. Cook in 2 or 3 batches, until golden on the first side. Using kitchen tongs, turn the chicken and cook an additional 30 to 45 seconds.
9. Pour about 1 cup of the tomato sauce into a 2-quart rectangular casserole dish, spreading evenly across the bottom.
10. Place ½ of the prepared chicken in a single layer in the bottom of the dish. Top with half of the cheese slices and ¾ cup of the sauce. Sprinkle 4 or 5 Basil leaves over the chicken.
11. Repeat 1 more time. Sprinkle the prepared breadcrumbs.
12. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauce begins bubbling.
13. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the breadcrumb topping is golden.