So here’s the thing…like most people in the world, my intentions don’t always line up with the reality of my every day life. Take last Tuesday. I had every intention of making Chicken Parmesan for dinner. It’s a wonderfully hearty and delicious fall meal and we hadn’t had it in ages. Then 5pm rolled around and I realized I’d forgotten to take the chicken out of the freezer. Oops.
This left me with a few choices. Pull out one of my standby freezer reserve meals (usually parmesan crusted tilapia or sticky honey chicken) or come up with a new way to reach the end goal.
To be honest, coming up with a new way to reach an end goal fits a little more with my personality.
Add in the fact that the last month or two’s worth of experimental dinners has gone over astoundingly well and I end up with a rising confidence level and a willingness to take some more risks in the kitchen.
One of the tricks I’ve learned with meat I’ve forgotten to thaw is that even 5 minutes of sitting raw meat on a teflon coated skillet will thaw things out enough to let me slice it. Don’t get me wrong, the meat will still be frozen, it’s just more like cutting through really hard ice cream than trying to hack your way through a block of ice. I also know that if I slice meat about 1/8″ thin on a bias cut, I can cook it in the skillet in a matter of minutes and it will stay nice and juicy.
Since I was still craving chicken parmesan, I was trying to figure out what would replicate the flavor in a world where I wouldn’t have time to bread it, pan fry it then toss it in the oven to finish. My first thought was to mix some toasted bread crumbs into the pasta. I’ve done that in recipes before and it was delicious…but those recipes called for an oil based sauce, not a tomato based sauce. I was afraid the flavor of the breadcrumbs would be completely lost in the tomato sauce.
Then I got to thinking about the reality of chicken parmesan. Like most forms of breaded and fried chicken, the breading often starts coming off and you end up using your fork to get a little bit of chicken and breading in each bite anyway.
That’s when the idea hit me.
[ Sidebar: Now, I never buy croutons, because I can’t stand them. The idea of tearing up the roof of my mouth while I’m eating something like a salad makes absolutely no sense to me…but…Mr W likes them, so I’ve started buying them.]
We had a package of “cheesy garlic croutons” in the pantry and I’d noticed they held up pretty well to the rivers of salad dressing the kids tend to flood them with. I reasoned that while they probably wouldn’t hold up their crunch in the pasta sauce, they might keep their shape enough to act as bite size “breading” to go along with the chicken.
And thus, the recipe was born.
The results were amazing. Absolutely delicious, super fast and pretty much the same bite for bite flavor of traditional chicken parmesan. No, it’s not as pretty, but if you’re looking for a great weeknight meal you can get on the table in under 30 minutes, even if you’ve forgotten to thaw your chicken breast. Plus, it’s made with the things most people keep in their pantry anyway, so unless you really want to garnish with fresh parsley, there’s no reason to make a special grocery trip for ingredients.
Deconstructed Chicken Parmesan Recipe
- 1 pound of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I use Aldi’s Grandessa Tomato Basil)
- 1 pound of pasta (I use Giant Eagle Nature’s Basket Whole Wheat Angel Hair)
- 1 cup of cheesy garlic croutons
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzerella cheese
- 2 T butter
- 3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
If frozen, place chicken breasts in a Teflon coated pan and set aside. Set water to boil on stove for pasta. Mince garlic and add to skillet with butter. Turn skillet on low. Remove chicken from Teflon pan and slice on the bias with a sharp knife into 1/8″ thick slices. Turn skillet to medium high and wait until garlic starts to smell fragrant. Add chicken to skillet and saute 3-5 minutes or until the last of the pink disappears.
Immediately add the spaghetti sauce to the pan and reduce heat to low. Stir in most of the cheese, leaving a little bit for garnish, then stir in the croutons as well. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan and drain your pasta. Toss the pasta with a bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and then serve it all with a bit of shredded cheese and fresh parsley or basil on top. (Don’t forget to salt and pepper to taste as a little bit of salt really makes the flavor on this pop.)
We served it with steamed broccoli and salad and the entire meal took less than thirty minutes to put together. This one has probably earned a spot as a monthly regular in our meal rotation.
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