Thursday, March 31, 2016

Italian Night at the Range

Chicken Parmigiana is on the menu of all Italian restaurants, from the worst, to the five star. It can be wonderfully crisp and rich or dry and tasteless.   Here's a way to get a wonderfully moist dish with a crisp coating.

Brine It.

You can make this with your favorite red sauce, or just use a jar (my favorite, as I've mentioned before, is Rao's, which isn't very expensive.)

Use a blend of cheese instead of just mozzarella to up the melting factor and give it a little more depth (I used a mixture of  mozzarella and grated Parmigiano-Regginao.

Bribing the dog to go into the other room, makes preparation a lot easier

Italian Night at the Range - Chicken

2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves


1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk,(note this is the time to use REAL buttermilk, not milk soured with juice or vinegar to get  the enzymatic and bacterial tenderization you want from the buttermilk)
2 and 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

With a sharp knife, split the chicken breasts in half horizontally, then pound them between pieces of parchment paper to about 1/2 inch thickness, which keeps them tender and juicy.

In a bowl combine the buttermilk, garlic, salt and pepper.

Place chicken in bowl of brine and turn until coated, then transfer chicken and brine into a clean zip lock bag. pressing out any air and put in the refrigerator for about 4-6 hours.
The 70 year old Range range -
we have a doctrine of mutually assured destruction in place.

When you are ready to prepare dinner:

(1) Preheat oven to 425 F.

(2) Remove chicken from brine - pat dry with paper towels and set aside after discarding brine, then wash your hands thoroughly.

(3) Get a large sauce pan filled with water to heat for pasta.

(4) Heat a jar of Rao's pasta sauce in another pan until just gently simmering

(5) Get out a large skillet and place 1/4 to 1/3 cup (depending on how big your pan is, you are not deep frying but  doing a gentle crisping saute) extra virgin olive oil in it and set aside

(6) Mix up 3-step coating.

Note:  Use one hand for wet ingredients and the other hand for dry ingredients to keep it cleaner

Bowl (or pie plates) #1:
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour (add a little more if needed)
   pinch of basil

Bowl #2
-1 egg plus 2 teaspoons of buttermilk, whisked

Bowl #3
-2 cups panko bread crumbs*
 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Regginao.
 dash of pepper

Note:  If you have half a loaf of Italian or french bread getting old, cut it into slices, leave out to dry overnight on the counter, then chop into chunks and process in a food processor into crumbs with the cheese and pepper.

Dip chicken in flour, followed by egg mixture, followed by crumbs.  Set on a plate. Wash your hands again with soap and hot water.

When oil is 375 degrees, cook chicken, using tongs to get them into the pan, 2 pieces at a time, swirling the pan a little and using a thin, flexible spatula to keep chicken from sticking.  When golden brown, (2 to 3 minutes) flip with spatula and fork and cook on other side until golden brown (about another two minutes) Remove to plate covered with paper towels to drain

Make sure your pasta water is about ready to get your pasta cooking (I use about half a box of spaghetti).

Place a thin layer of the  warm pasta sauce in an 8 x 8 pan, top with chicken and drizzle chicken with a little more sauce (don't drench it)and top with 2/3 cup of Mozzarella cut into 1/3 inch shavings PLUS 3 Tablespoons of Parmigiano-Regginao.  Leave the edges of the chicken free of cheese to give it room to melt.

Bake until cheese is starting to melt (16 - 18 minutes) then place under the broiler for just a few moments until starting to brown.  Top with shredded basil and/or parsley and serve immediately.


  1. Where do you find real buttermilk? None of the dairy's around here make any.
    There is plenty of cultured buttermilk, none of the grocery stores within 100 miles carry Kates or Cruze's.
    Many years ago, we used to bring our own bottles to the local creamery and they would fill them for us. Glass of cold buttermilk with a little sprinkle of salt on top, do I miss that. Now there is a parking lot where the creamery was.

    1. There is a dairy in Kalona Iowa that makes old fashioned organic reduced fat sweet cream buttermilk. Kalona Suprenaturals. A few of the Whole Foods in Chicagoland carry it. But, yeah, it's really hard to find most places.

  2. I'd like to hear more about the MAD with that range.



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