Not counting pizza and spaghetti, chicken Parmesan may be the most popular Italian-American restaurant entree out there. For many years I've been trying to perfect a home version that didn’t require the breading and frying, but still offered that irresistible combination of tender chicken, crunchy/cheesy coating, and flavorful sauce. These attempts were met with soggy, flaccid results. The problem with not frying the breaded breast is the baked-on coating just doesn’t get crisp enough to stand up to the sauce and cheese.
Well, on Tuesday, February 19th, at 4:45 PM, it hit me like a giant meatball dropped from the leaning tower of Pisa (worst simile ever?). I was watching TV and saw some croutons being sprinkled on a salad. I suddenly had the answer to my crispy/cheesy coating dilemma. The solution to the breading problem was…no breading! I would make the chicken Parmesan like a casserole; chicken and sauce, topped with a crispy, crunchy, layer of cheese and croutons.
What followed was one of my proudest moments as a cook. Not only did the recipe taste amazing, it was also better than any traditional chicken Parmesan I had ever made. When you consider it's lower in fat, takes about 10 minutes to put together, it's no wonder why this is my new favorite recipe. Now I know what Alexander Graham Bell felt like when he got that phone to work…"Watson, come here, I need you…the chicken Parmesan is ready." Enjoy!
UPDATE!! My chicken really was done after 35 minutes (plus resting for 10), but your cooking time may be up to an hour depending on the size, shape, and temperature of your chicken. Please use a meat thermometer to check doneness (155 degree F.)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
hot red pepper flakes, to taste
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 5, but they were huge!)
2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 cup chopped basil
8 oz mozzarella, shredded
4 oz Parmesan, grated
1 (5-oz) package garlic croutons