Are You Tired of Your Old Parmigiana?

Most of us love a good chicken parmigiana (unless you're a vegetarian in which case you probably love eggplant parm, unless you're a vegan, in which case I'm just sorry).  We call it Italian, but let's face it, the dish is as American as cheeseburgers.  Only in America would people fry a piece of meat, then cover it in tomato sauce, smother it in cheese and then throw the whole thing on top of pasta or stuff it into a wedge of bread.  It's an over-the-top dish loved by a culture that enjoys excess.

I do love it myself without apology (to either Italians or vegetarians), but it's the kind of dish you can have any time of year any place.  I can buy it at any local deli or pizza place.  I can make it in the dead of winter with tomato sauce made from canned tomatoes or sauce from a jar.  (NO I WOULD NEVER USE SAUCE FROM A JAR!  NOOOOOOOOOOO!)

It's summer and there is so much more out there to play with than canned tomatoes and chicken.  I can make sauces out of a hundred different vegetables and herbs.  The farmers' markets are brimming with good stuff.  This is one reason it's my favorite time of year.

Also, mozzarella?  Love it.  You know what I love more?  Sharp provolone.  It has been my favorite since I was a child.

My goal this time was to make a dish that recalled the decadence of chicken parmigiana, but incorporated other flavors.

Rather than make a marinara sauce, I made a sauce one might compare to caponata (or perhaps ratatouille) but without the olives. (I considered adding capers, but Kevin has to watch his salt intake.) Regular readers know I'm not a fan of eggplant, but eggplants are like potatoes.  Some varieties taste better than others. These adorable little fairy tale eggplants have a mild flavor and soft texture and the sort of melt into the sauce.

 I included the quarter for scale

 In addition to the eggplants I added the standard tomatoes.  I flavored the sauce with onions, garlic, basil, and a bit of red wine vinegar and honey for a sweet and sour taste.  I also tossed some toasted pine nuts in there.

I stuffed my chicken breasts with a square of sharp provolone rather than topping it with mozzarella. The recipe is for four stuffed chicken breasts, but due to someone's dislike of cheese, particularly a cheese as strong as provolone, only half of the cutlets I cooked were stuffed.

I thought it was great.  Kevin gave it the Sir Pickypants stamp of disapproval.  He couldn't tell me why he didn't like the sauce.  He just didn't like it.  This won't go into dinner rotation.  I hope if you try it, you like it better, and make it often.

Provolone Stuffed Chicken Cutlets with Eggplant Sauce

Ingredients

Sauce
  • 2  medium onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 15 fairytale eggplants, cut in small dice
  • 2 Tbl red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbl honey
  • 10 (approximately) basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 Tbl pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 Tbl oil for cooking
Chicken
  • 4 thick chicken breasts
  • 4 1-oz slices of provolone cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • A few grinds black pepper
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
  • 1 1/2 cups plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbl parmesan cheese
  • Oil for frying
Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat 2 Tbl of oil in a large frying pan or saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and reduce heat to low.  Cook gently until onions are soft.  Add the eggplant and tomatoes and cook until eggplants are soft. Add the basil and garlic until fragrant.  Add the honey and vinegar and add salt to taste.  Cook over low heat until jammy.  If it becomes too thick, add a little chicken stock.  Stir in the toasted pine nuts.

Mix together flour, salt, and pepper and place in a shallow dish.  Place the egg and water in a second dish.  Mix together the breadcrumbs and parmesan and place in a third dish.

Carefully butterfly the chicken breasts and insert a piece of cheese in the pocket.  Dredge in flour, dip in egg, and dip in breadcrumbs.

Heat remaining oil over medium heat and fry cutlets carefully about 6 minutes per side until golden.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for an additional 10-12 minutes.

Serve chicken topped with eggplant sauce and sprinkle with pine nuts.

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