Tag Archives: parmesan

abi’s chicken with peppers

This dish is what chicken parmesan would be if it grew up, ate mostly salad, and got a personal trainer, but still yielded to the occasional urge to eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy. Is it perfectly healthy? No. But it’s trying, and it comes close.

Maybe this dish deserves a catchier name. But let’s be honest. Abi – Xavier’s daughter – is the one who requests this dinner most frequently. She calls it “the chicken with the peppers.” Then I wonder if it was the stir-fried chicken, where bell peppers were accompanied by a handful of broccoli? Or perhaps the curried chicken with caramelized onions and strips of pepper almost melting into the sauce? As it turns out, none of the above. Why not just call it “Abi’s Chicken with Peppers?”

Abi’s Chicken with Peppers was born by accident. Don’t you love when you throw together a random meal and it turns out to be a huge hit? The kind of meal that is requested again and again? That was how this happened. It was the end of the week and the fridge was looking bare. I had chicken breasts, some leftover tomato sauce, and a smattering of vegetables. What to make?

My first thought: chicken parm. Now, our household loves chicken parmesan. I mean, really, really, really loves it. Nobody is Italian, or even close to it – we’re a mixture of Eastern European and Ecuadorian – but somehow that dish has made its way into our hearts and souls. The only issue is, we feel guilty eating it. The chicken is breaded, fried, and smothered with mozzarella. Obviously we love our indulgences, but generally we try to stay active and eat healthy foods.

I decided to skip the breading stage, and just saute chicken breasts to give them a quick sear. Then I’d smother the cutlets in sauteed bell pepper. Crunch is great, especially when it comes from crispy veggies and not breaded chicken coating! The chicken is placed in a baking dish, just like chicken parmesan, where it receives a healthy splash of tomato sauce and a moderate sprinkling of cheese. Sure, you can skip that if you’re really going for the low-calorie version. But as I tell myself, our brains need fat to stay healthy and continue to think of healthy modifications to recipes!

abis_chicken_peppers

Abi’s Chicken with Peppers

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pint tomato sauce, warm (my favorite)
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
Olive oil, for sauteeing
1 bell pepper, sliced
Mozzarella cheese, grated, to taste (I use about 1/2 cup)

First, prepare the chicken breasts. Using a very sharp knife, slice the breasts in half lengthwise so you end up with four thin cutlets. Pound the cutlets (between two pieces of plastic wrap, or inside a plastic bag) until they are thin and somewhat even. I do this with whatever heavy object I have laying around, be it a wine bottle, a can of tomatoes, or sometimes my fist.

Right about now, you’ll want to preheat the oven to 425F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the chicken breasts in the mixture. Pre-heat a large saute pan over medium-high. Add a tiny bit of olive oil and saute the chicken breasts until browned on each side. You may need to do this in batches. The chicken is thin so this won’t take long, maybe 2-3 minutes per side. The idea is just to brown them. It’s okay if they’re still a little underdone inside, because they’ll be spending time in the oven, and you want to keep them moist! When the chicken is done, place the cutlets in one layer on a baking sheet that fits them comfortably.

Add just a splash more olive oil to the still-hot pan, and saute the bell peppers for just a minute. You want them to cook just a bit, but keep them crispy.

When the peppers are finished, layer them on top of the chicken cutlets. Ladle sauce on top, then sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese on top melts and begins to brown.

With pasta and salad, this will serve four people… or two to three hungry ones.

Notes: I have been known to add onion and mushroom to the pepper mixture. You could definitely experiment here.

If you make Chiffonade’s sauce, you’ll end up with much more than you need for the chicken. Serve some with the side pasta, and refrigerate or freeze the rest.

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herb-parmesan dutch baby recipe

herb-parmesan-dutch-baby-slice

Brunch on Sunday is my favorite meal of the week. Unless someone is craving dim sum, we rarely go out. Instead, I scour the fridge for anything edible and create a gleeful explosion of pots and pans in our own kitchen.

This morning, I was inspired by my Smitten Kitchen cookbook, which features a recipe for a gingerbread dutch baby. That was an adventure in itself. We’re not really sweet-breakfast people. Sometimes we eat pancakes, but mostly our brunches are eggs and bacon and toast. But I pulled out my cookbook, which hasn’t yet failed to impress us, and 25 minutes later my oven gave birth to a gingerbread dutch baby.

Gingerbread Dutch Baby

Gingerbread Dutch Baby

As promised, it was tasty. We loved the texture – a little crispy, a little custardy – and it was a perfect cross between a pancake and crepe. Not bad. But I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I took that sweet little baby and made it savory. There are so many options because it’s spring. Just last night while walking my dog, I swiped a few branches of rosemary from a neighbor’s giant front-yard bush. Fresh herbs would be the perfect addition to the dutch baby. Parmesan would help it grow up a little.

So I riffed on the book recipe. I omitted the molasses, brown sugar, and spices. Instead, I used herbs and grated Parmesan cheese. And during the butter-melting stage, during which the pan and its sides are coated in the stuff, I sauteed a little minced shallot for flavor and texture. The pancake came out of the oven puffy, with high crispy edges.

puffy_herb_parmesan_dutch_baby

Almost immediately, though, it sank into submission on the plate. I sprinkled it with a little bit of grated cheese and minced herb.

whole_herb_parmesan_dutch_baby

Then we dug in. It was everything that I’d dreamed of. That perfect crunchy-custardy texture was enhanced by little nuggets of crispy shallot. And the flavor was everything I’d hoped it would be: bright from the herbs, deep from the cheese. I will absolutely be making this again and I hope you give it a shot, too.

herb_parmesan_dutch_baby_bite

Herb-Parmesan Dutch Baby

(adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)

2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup milk
40 grams flour
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, etc) or 1 tablespoon dried herbs
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven to 400.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Add the salt, pepper, Parmesan, milk, and flour. Whisk until well-combined, then stir in the herbs. (Alternatively, you can do this in a blender).

In a 9-inch sauté pan, melt the butter over high heat. While it’s melting, add the shallot. Be sure to brush the sides of the pan with melted butter. When the butter is fully liquid and the shallot is beginning to sizzle, add the batter.

Pop the whole thing in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Serve hot, garnished with fresh herb and a little more Parmesan. I thought the pancake was custardy enough that it didn’t need sauce, but you could also serve it with a little bit of whipped cream cheese or creme fraiche.