After the success of the pizza, I thought I would try something else Italian-ish. I’ve never actually had chicken parm, but really, what’s not to like? This recipe is a bit convoluted as I used the chicken skin to make the “breadcrumbs”, but you could make it simpler by using skinned and boned chicken thighs and a packet of pork rinds. You could of course go traditional and use chicken breasts, but they are: i) more expensive; ii) less tasty; iii) less fatty, and; iv) more likely to dry up. I also happened to make a triumphant tomato sauce, so I used all of it in the dish (not sure a real chicken parm would have so much sauce). You could save any extra sauce for use in something else if you’re not as much of a sauceophile as me!
For the chicken:
4 chicken thighs
20 g parmesan cheese, grated
50 g ground almonds
Clarified butter for shallow-frying
Salt & pepper
For the sauce:
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 courgette, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
200 ml white wine (about half a tomato tin’s worth)
Salt & pepper
Butter for frying
For the toppings:
250 g mozzarella cheese, chopped
50 g parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp basil pesto
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
First, prepare the chicken. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and place on a baking tray, as flat as you can. Season the skins with salt and pepper, place a layer of foil over them and place another tray on top. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the skins are golden and crispy. Try not to eat them all at this point. Nachos anyone? Harvest any rendered chicken fat to use later. Place the skins on some kitchen towel and set to one side.
While the skins are in the oven, prepare the tomato sauce. Melt some butter in a pan and sweat the onions and garlic over a medium heat, until soft. Add the chilli flakes, dried basil and season well with salt and pepper. Add the pepper and continue to sweat for a few minutes until soft.
Next add the courgette and sweat for a further few minutes until soft. Now add the tomato puree, allow to cook for a minute and then add the fresh and tinned tomatoes, along with the white wine. Simmer for 20 minutes on a gentle heat.
While the sauce is simmering, prepare the chicken for frying. Remove the bones from the chicken thighs, using a sharp knife. Open the thighs out and give them a good bashing with a rolling pin, until they are nice and flat.
For the crumb, blitz up the crispy chicken skins in a food processor, and mix together with the ground almonds, parmesan cheese and some freshly ground black pepper.
Coat the chicken thighs in the crumb mixture (use a beaten egg if the crumbs don’t stick). Heat some clarified butter (and any harvested chicken fat from earlier) in a frying pan (enough to shallow-fry the chicken) until super hot (test by dropping in some of the crumb mixture – if it sizzles, you’re good to go). Fry the thighs, one at a time, for two minutes on each side until the crumbs are golden (don’t worry about fully cooking the chicken, it’s going to have some oven time).
Once the chicken has been fried and the sauce has had about 20 minutes of simmering, whizz up the sauce using a hand blender. Check for seasoning and add more if needed.
Now it’s time for layering! Place about a third of the sauce in the bottom of a shallow oven dish. Next, lay the chicken thighs all over the bottom of the dish and top with the mozzarella, parmesan and dollops of pesto (oh any any leftover crumbs, including the ones from the frying pan that fell off the chicken. Go ahead and pour the fat in there too). Cover the whole thing in the rest of the sauce and grate some extra parmesan on top, just for good measure.
Bake in the oven for approximately 35 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked, the sauce has reduced and the cheese is all lovely and melty. Serve a piece of chicken, with loads of the sauce (and cheese) and some token green beans (or green veg of your choice).