Friday, November 4, 2011

Baked Parmesan Chicken (with Eggplant Adaptation)

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Have a look at our giveaway here and join in.

I've also updated Costs and Menus and am considering doing Jean's Food Journal again.

Recently, a friend gave me a couple of gorgeous eggplants. Which is one of the things I love about southern Indiana. We're not really the south, but we're just at the edge of it. We have (usually) mild winters with an ice storm here and there to keep it real; and (usually) long summers or forgiving falls or a sweet combination of both. Now if we could just grow some hills and get rid of the chiggers and mosquitoes, and maybe add a few sidewalks here and there--that, that would be heaven. But I digress.

So my friend gave me some eggplants and I knew I wanted to make eggplant Parmesan. I also knew that Kip would not eat eggplant Parmesan, at least without being paid copious amounts of money.

So I compromised. One of the great things about compromise is that it's usually good on both ends (or, I guess, bad on both ends). But in this case it was good on both ends. Though I still say that my end was better.

Which brings me to one final point: If you've never tried eggplant, this is an awesome dish to begin with. It's really really hard not to like.

Baked Parmesan Chicken with Eggplant Adaptation
adapted from 365 Ways To Cook Chicken: Simply The Best Chicken Recipes You'll Find Anywhere
Makes 9x13 inch pan
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Cost: $5.50-6.50 with chicken, and--oh, look how much cheaper with eggplant; wow--$1.50 if you have a good friend; otherwise $3.50 or so during eggplant season)
(chicken: 4.00-5.00, butter: .20, Parmesan: .50, milk: .15, Swiss: .50, bread crumbs: .15)

Note: I know this sounds like it doesn't have enough seasonings in it, but trust the cheeses (and butter and salt and pepper). This dish has tons of flavor.

4 large breasts chicken, cut into smaller strips (or, of course, strips of chicken)
3 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper
1/2 C grated Parmesan (Romano works too)
2 Tbsp flour
1 C milk
1/2 C shredded Swiss cheese (Swiss is awesome in this, but if you don't have it, you can use mozzarella to very good effect)
1/4 C bread crumbs

Note: Bread crumbs can be homemade by putting stale bread in the blender and pulsing until crumb-y. I used a combination of white and whole wheat because that's what I had around.

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle salt and pepper over chicken. Add chicken to pan and cook, turning once the bottom side is golden brown. Cook until the other side is golden.

While the chicken is cooking, grease a 9x13 inch pan and sprinkle 1/4 C of the Parmesan cheese over it (I generally use a little less on the bottom--2-3 Tbsp--and then use a little more on top.)

When chicken is golden, set it on the Parmesan in the pan.

You should have some drippings left in your pan. If you don't, or if they're sparse, add 1-2 Tbsp more butter. Swirl that around. Whisk in flour and swirl around. Whisk in milk (I love a flat whisk here) and cook, stirring constantly, utnil smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in Swiss or mozzarella. Pour sauce over chicken.

Top chicken with remaining 1/4 C Parmesan cheese (or 5 Tbsp). Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake for 45 minutes or until chicken is done (if using small strips, it should be done sooner than this). Note: Of course, chicken (about 170 degrees) is another great place to use your instant read thermometer...

Eggplant Adaptation:

Slice 2-3 large or 4-5 medium eggplant. I slice them into quarter inch slices (you can't peel first if you wish, but I like the color so I don't, although the skin does get a bit skin-ny on the end pieces).

Now--and this is an important and fabulous tip from America's Test Kitchen--put them in a single layer on about 3 layers of paper towels in the microwave for 7-8 minutes. This is going to dehydrate them a bit. They'll come out looking a bit shriveled and sad. Do Not Despair. This is as it should be.

Eggplant tends to suck up a lot of moisture and this microwaving keeps them from being soggy after browning in the butter and then being baked for a time. Seriously, do it. Your eggplant will come out so much better in this dish.

Now proceed with the recipe as you would with the chicken. Brown them in the butter until both sides are golden. Slather them in sauce, then cheese. And bake.

As you can see from the picture up top, we baked ours right next to each other (here's to our marriage and to compromise), although if you're a vegetarian, I trust you'd want to use a different pan so the juices don't mingle.

We served ours on pasta mixed with a marinade sauce and a Caesar salad thereby.



  1. Eggplant or chicken - how will I ever choose???


  2. It is tough and they're both excellent, but seriously, the eggplant is super yum.



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