Recently I was in a chicken parmigiano coma. I had chicken parm five times out of a nine night period. I was in a chicken parm haze, drugged on the goodness of good chicken parm, and couldn’t get enough.

I believe I was going through my phase because I really love my neighborhood Italian restaurant. They do a great job on everything but they make outstanding chicken parm.

I try other chicken parm dishes out there at other restaurants and while the feeling of guilt washes over me like I’m cheating on my girlfriend. Most are OK, but there’s nothing like my favorite place for chicken parm. So with that said, my chicken parm is nothing like my favorite, but I enjoy it.

The other thing I noticed about other recipes is that the sauce doesn’t get a lot of attention. Most people use jarred sauce as a quick fix in putting this together. You can find my full recipe for Big Joe’s Homemade Tomato Sauce below. It’s a good sauce so make a lot of it, freeze it and use on other dishes.

Big Joe's Homemade Sauce

Like good wine, good sauce or gravy as some of my Brooklyn and Northern Jersey friends call it, needs time and patience.

You'll Need:

3 28oz cans crushed tomatoes (I like Tuttorroso brand)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 small can of tomato paste (Italian seasoned is good)
3/4 cup of red wine (I use Chianti or a Merlot or a Pinot Noir)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely diced
9 white button mushrooms, diced
1 small yellow onion (I like Vidalia when in season), diced
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons of basil
4 tablespoons of Romano or Parmesan cheese (I like a blend of these two cheeses)
1 large pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (I like a little more)
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Note: I find it almost mandatory to use a wooden spoon and better for your pots!

How to make the sauce:

In a large pot over medium high heat add olive oil. Once oil is warm add onions, mushroom, garlic and salt (salt prevents browning). You don't want to brown the onions, mushrooms or garlic so add a little salt and cook so onions are a little transparent.

Add oregano, basil, black pepper and saute briefly, mixing in all the spices. Add diced tomatoes stirring constantly, Add tomato paste, mix well and incorporate. Add crushed tomatoes stirring constantly. Add bay leaves, wine, sugar, crushed pepper flakes. Stir mixture slowly and bring mixture to a slow boil.

Once boiling reduce heat to simmer, stirring the sauce every 5-10 minutes at first so that the sauce doesn't stick to the bottom. I partially cover the pot to let some of the sauce reduce, simmer for 2-3 hours at very low heat, stirring every 20 minutes or so. About 20 minutes before sauce is ready, add cheese and remove bay leaves.

Big Joe's Chicken Parmigiano

You'll need:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves
1 ½ tablespoons oregano
1 ½ tablespoons thyme (dried is fine)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flour for dredging (all purpose)
6 cups of Italian seasoned bread crumbs
6 large eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons of whole milk
1 pound of grated mozzarella or mozzarella/provolone mix
Olive oil for frying

How to put the chicken parm together:

Make the sauce first, as the longer the sauce hangs out, the better the taste.

Most recipes and cooks call for pounding the hell out of the chicken breasts but my recipe doesn’t call for excess pounding. I like my cutlets thick. Wrap chicken in plastic wrap and gently pound out the breasts so that they are more even but retain a nice thickness.

Set up three bowls/plates. In a large bowl, whisk in bread crumbs, salt & pepper, oregano, thyme and 1/3 of the Parmesan/Romano cheese. In a medium bowl whisk and beat the eggs and milk together. In the third plate add the flour, some salt and pepper for dredging.

Heat a skillet/pan with olive oil, getting oil up to a 375 degree temperature. You may want to increase that temperature as oil will cool as chicken breasts are added. For each breast, dredge in flour shaking off any excess, dip in egg mixture coating entire breast then dredge in breadcrumbs, coating evenly over breast.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook chicken in oil, do not overload pan, give plenty of room for chicken to cook. Once golden brown, remove chicken breast and place on a paper towel.

After all the chicken is cooked, in a large baking dish brush olive oil very lightly on entire baking dish. Add a layer of sauce and cover the bottom of dish, add the chicken breasts in one single layer. Cover cutlets with sauce (about three cups). Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese on top of cutlets, add mozzarella/provolone cheese on top.

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes. Cheese should be bubbling and lightly browned on top. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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