Food + Wine

Parmesean Crusted Chicken with a Raw Tomato Basil Sauce

I’ve been making this dish for so many years. The first time I
made it was when my husband and I were away in the mountains after our
road-trip back from living in California for two years. We were very
young, and broke, but blissfully happy.  At the time I was working on
starting my own cooking class business and had been recipe testing for
weeks. I prepared it for him in that old mountain cottage kitchen, with
exposed wood walls and old cast iron pans, and afterwards he looked up
at me and said, ‘I want you to make this for me every single week for
the rest of our lives.’ We kissed and snuggled and drank cheap red wine
in the over sized, brown leather chair- bellies and hearts full.

We’re older now; tired, busy and active. The good news is that we drink
better wine now, the bad news is I didn’t keep my weekly meal promise.  Instead we
focused on having babies, buying a home, starting a new and different
life together… When I think back on that sweet, young, handsome boy in
a mountain lounge chair who, at the time was all I needed, wanted, and
loved, I realize how much we have been through together- How simple our
lives were then.

 

Now things are more complicated, more complex, richer and more full. We have everything we
ever talked about wanting- the kids, the happiness, the love, the home,
and even though it’s not white or picket, we even have the fence.  And
now I can make this meal for not just one eager mouth, but three.  And
after this week, it’s already become a family favorite!

 

You shoulda seen my husbands face when I told him that morning what we were
having for dinner. His eyes lit up like that sweet, young, handsome boy
who, 8 years later, is not the only one I need, want and love, but part
of a perfect foursome that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

(makes 4 large servings)

 

This chicken recipe happens to be gluten-free…carb-free actually.  The chicken is only coated and
crusted in seasoned Parmesan cheese and then topped with a raw
cherry/grape tomato-basil ‘sauce’.  The contrast of crispy and deeply
flavored chicken with the fresh tomato sauce is just heavenly and it’s
so simple to make!  So if you happen to be someone who is watching their
carbs, make this chicken with a double vegetable but if you have to
eliminate gluten, you can still make the potato cakes…keep reading to
see how I do it!

On a large plate or cookie sheet, spread out 1
cup of shredded parmesan cheese (not grated) and season with the zest
of 1 lemon, lots of freshly grated nutmeg, and freshly cracked black
pepper. Mix together with your hands to incorporate.

 

Take 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and season lightly with kosher salt
(you don’t need too much salt because the cheese is salted) before
firmly pressing one side down into the cheese mixture. Season the other
side with kosher salt (the side facing up) before flipping and pressing
down into the cheese.

 

Preheat a large skillet (nonstick is preferred) over medium-high heat and cover the bottom with a light layer of vegetable or light olive oil.
(I rarely use a lot of oil when I’m searing or sauteing something
because I don’t think it’s necessary, but in this case you really need a
layer of it to ensure that the cheese will stick and that you get a
good crust on the chicken.) You want the pan to be very hot in order to
have the cheese stick to the chicken.

 

Place the chicken, presentation-side down, carefully
into the hot oil. Position each breast where you want it to stay
because once it’s in there, you’re not touching it for awhile.

 

Cook for 7 minutes before carefully flipping- DO NOT MOVE THEM OR TOUCH THEM BEFORE 7 MINUTES. (I find a fish spatula works best for flipping these,

 

 

but be careful if you’re using a non-stick pan so you don’t scratch the surface.)

 

 

Cook for another 7 minutes on the other side. They should now be done, but check with a thermometer to be sure as I don’t know the thickness of the breasts you used.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and drain any excess oil by placing on paper towels.

 

 

The
chicken actually doesn’t soak up a ton of oil like it would if you had
coated them in breadcrumbs or flour, so you can feel better about having
to add so much oil in the beginning!!

 

Allow
to rest before serving. If you’re making these before anything else is
done, place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and place in a warm oven
(170-200 degrees).

 

 

*Top with the Raw Tomato Basil Sauce…

 

 

Mix
everything together, season to taste. Stir and allow to sit at room
temperature for about 30 minutes to develop the flavor…

 

 

Here’s my tip for the easiest way to slice a bunch of cherry or grape tomatoes at the same time…

 

 

I
have some old Mooresville Deluxe ice cream containers whose lids are
the perfect fit to slice a pint of tomatoes at a time.  You just find
two of the same plastic lids (if they’re small, just slice them in
batches) and it’ll work just fine!

 

What to serve on the side is totally up to you! The traditional side to this dish has always been my Spinach Cakes:

(http://everydaychampagne.blogspot.com/2010/02/new-tricks-for-old-dogs.html?m=1 -super old post)

 

…and
some sort of starch- pasta, gnocchi, rosemary white beans… But I
changed things up a bit this time because I had some leftover mashed
potatoes and a lot of fresh asparagus to use up.

 

*Crispy Potato Cakes

 

 

This
is just a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes…which I always
seem to have! And it’s perfect for taking a leftover and turning it
into something new and different.  I started with about 2 cups of mashed potatoes, which made the perfect amount of 4 cakes.

 

Instead
of flour or breadcrumbs like you usually see in pan-fried potato cakes,
I decided to use dehydrated potato flakes which I always have on hand
to feed the starter for my sourdough potato bread:

(http://everydaychampagne.blogspot.com/2010/06/not-your-grandmothers-sourdough-bread.html?m=1 -super old post)

 

So…turns out these potato cakes happen to be gluten free if you care about that kind of stuff 😉

 

You’re
just using an ice cream scoop and coating the mashed potatoes in a
plate of dried potato flakes seasoned with salt and pepper. Then you
flatten them and fry in a little oil, 3-4 minutes on both sides, til golden and crispy. (I used the same pan and oil from making the chicken.)

 

*Roasted Asparagus…

 

 

…couldn’t be easier to make! Seriously. It literally takes less than 5 minutes my way. Just trim your asparagus (1 large bunch can usually feed 4 people) of the tough ends, (save them for this delicious soup!!:

http://everydaychampagne.blogspot.com/2013/04/ends-to-mean-soup.html?m=1), and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and shake the pan to coat the spears in the oil. Season with kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and a pinch of sugar.

 

Place under your preheated broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until lightly blistered and just tender enough to still have a snap to them.

 

And now your meal is complete.

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