Thursday, February 4

Chicken Farmer John (Parmesan)

Chicken Parmesan that's easy as pie. Chicken Parmesan that goes great with pie! Great, now I want pie. 

"Chicken Farmer John?" You ask? Yeah, well you can thank my husband's little cousin for that one. A few years ago, his little cousin heard "Chicken Parmesan" and thought we said "Chicken Farmer John", and ever since then, Chicken Parmesan has seized to exist. 

This is basically a go-to recipe we do at least a couple times a month. I tend to go in rotation of what's easy, filling, healthy, and well, EASY. Did I mention this is pretty easy, too?

Ingredients: (serves 4)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 lb whole grain/wheat spaghetti noodles (1/2 lb. = 1/2 package usually. I like to cook the entire box and save the rest)
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes 
1/2 c Parmesan cheese (preferably freshly grated)
1 TBS sugar/honey (optional but suggested)
1 TBS basil
1 TBS Oregano
Cilantro (1 handful or about 4 TBS dry - optional)

Short version: 
Pound chicken thin, coat w/ flour, and cook on a hot skillet for 5-7 minutes. Cook spaghetti noodles, and drain. Heat tomatoes and sugar over medium for 5 minutes or until hot. Layer everything however you like, and melt cheese in oven until melted. Top w/ cilantro if you're obsessive about it like I am.

Long winded, more detailed version: 
Cook pasta according to package directions (al dente if ya can), drain immediately and set aside. You can also drop a little oil or spray some oil in to prevent the noodles from sticking together. 

While the pasta is boiling, cut both chicken breasts in half (I cut them crosswise, but either way is fine), grab a chicken breast, place it in a Ziploc bag and seal that puppy. Eww, sorry for the animal reference. 

Grab a skillet and add about a TBS of oil. Heat over medium high. 

Once the bag is sealed, start taking out your frustration by beating the heck out of it with a mallet, rolling pin, or your mother in law (sorry, I truly have the best mother in law in the world, but it sounded appropriate), until it's flattened or more thin. Be careful not to flatten it so much that it starts tearing. I usually flatten it to the tearing part (accidentally) and it still works just fine, so no worries if you do. Don't let this step intimidate you, it's super easy, and makes the chicken more crispy and perfect for this dish. Just Do it! (And then go for a jog in your Nike's!)

After you've flattened all 4 pieces, throw the flattened chicken into a bowl with a lid (or the same ziploc bag) that's filled with flour. I use wheat flour because there is absolutely NO..I repeat no taste difference in this dish whatsoever! In other dishes, yes, wheat flour makes a difference, but I assure you it makes no difference in this one. And it's healthier, so there!

Once your chicken is coated with flour, throw it in your hot skillet. Here's an important part. Don't. Touch. It! When you place your chicken in that hot skillet, we want it to crisp up, so don't get all crazy and start moving things around. It won't hurry anything along, and we'll lose that light crust we want! What you can do however, is just let it hang out there for about 4 minutes, and then flip over to the other side. If it looks like it's burning, flip it over sooner. Otherwise, leave it be!!

Now remove the chicken and sit it on paper towels or something (isn't that what they always say - "sit it on paper towels"?) In your hot, empty skillet (what a seductive apron I am), throw in your can of whole tomatoes. Use a spoon (wooden works great) to break the tomatoes apart as it heats up. This should happen pretty naturally..once it looks saucy, add the basil and oregano, and the a little sugar if that's your thing. Chicken Parmesan tends to have a sweeter sauce (sometimes marinara) than spaghetti, but I find marinara to have too much sugar. Using just the whole tomatoes with a dash of sugar means you can control what's in yo dish. 

I'm gangsta'. 

So now just grab a pretty serving dish (or your skillet for heaven's long as it's oven proof), and add your pasta to the bottom, top it off with about half the sauce, half the cheese, and all the chicken.

Then, on top of the chicken add some more sauce (all of what's left if you're a saucy person), and the rest of the cheese. 

Stick it in the oven set to a high broil for about 2-3 minutes. Watch it closely! It might be done sooner, but you're just looking for a nice melted layer on top. Once the cheese is melted and slightly brown, pull that sucker out! 

Top with cilantro if that's your thing. it really does kick this stuff up a notch!

And - Viola! Chicken Farmer John!

Now top it off with this garlic cheese bread and take a very long nap.


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