Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jessica Cooks! Chicken Parmesan

Cooking is, inevitably, a part of my daily existence.
My children and The Man of the House do help at times- and are excellent cooks themselves. But typically, I am the cook around here.
I try to keep the family dinner hour somewhat sacred. There is enough in this world tugging at family time, and studies have shown that children who consistently have dinner with their families, at home, are more successful in life. I'm doing my part to make that happen.
Sometimes that means changing the dinner time and some days we rush out the door as soon as dinner is finished, but we do sit down at the table together at least five nights a week.
I love it!
And, because I have this fun blog to write on, I'll take you along with me as I cook for my family.
Because it makes cooking more fun.
Because sometimes I don't want to cook.
And because my older children might appreciate the step-by-step instructions someday.

By the way, I prefer to cook barefoot. Just thought you should know.

This recipe feeds 10-12 people. Sorry folks. I don't really know how to cook in small amounts. I've been feeding an army for a while now. And we have company pretty often.

You'll need 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves.

1/2 cup italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan, plus extra parmesan for topping
Spaghetti noodles- I'm really bad about estimating the amount of pasta needed for this dish. For 10-12 people, I cooked about 48 oz. And had too much.

2 29 oz. cans tomato sauce (This is for the sauce. I also use store-bought spaghetti sauce occasionally. Use whichever you like.)
Also for the sauce:
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried, crushed red pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
3/4 to 1 Tablespoon granulated garlic (to taste)
( I also used fresh garlic when I'm feeling especially energetic)

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated pepper
2 teaspoons parsley
salt- if needed

Mozzarella cheese: about 3 cups, shredded

First, get your water on the stove for the pasta. Bring to a boil.
Preheat oven to 375*.

Slice chicken breasts in half, lengthwise.

In a gallon- sized ziploc bag, mix together 1/2 cup parmesan & 1/2 cup italian bread crumbs.

Place pieces of wet chicken into bag and shake to coat. Lay chicken on greased, foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375* for about 20 minutes. Until no longer pink in the center.
When you place the chicken in the oven, this is the time to cook your pasta. They should both be done in 20 minutes or less.
Of course, I'm at an altitude over 6,000 ft. - so time your chicken and spaghetti noodles according to the length of time it takes to cook them at your house. The chicken can wait if done first. The pasta can't.

Finely chop your 1/2 onion

In a large skillet, saute onion in 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil

While the onion is beginning to cook, get your bell pepper ready

Add the bell pepper to the onion and saute until the onions begin to look clear. You don't want the vegetables soft and mushy, but with a little crunch.
Unless you detest crunchiness in a spaghetti sauce. Then you'd better cook them longer.

Pour in the tomato sauce.

Add your seasonings. Taste as you go to get the flavor the way you like it!

Simmer on low for about 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, the chicken baking and the pasta boiling, consider organizing your seasonings.
The Man of the House made me a nice shelf over the stove to hold my most frequently-used items.
Only, it usually looks like this if I've been cooking a lot.
Oh my dear friends; garlic, olive oil, cinnamon, chili powder and cumin. I couldn't live without you! You make the world a better place.

So much better. Now they're all standing at attention. Not milling about, talking amongst themselves.

Okay, at this point everything should be ready. Drain your pasta. I don't rinse it for this dish as I want the sauce to stick to it. Plus, I add the sauce quickly so the pasta doesn't stick together.

See- I always end up with too many noodles!

Okay, here is my platter with pasta.

Now, pour 2/3 of your sauce over the pasta and mix it in a bit.

Add about 3/4 cup mozzarella.

Now place your cooked chicken over the top and cover with the rest of the sauce.

Spread the rest of the mozzarella over the top, then sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese and a bit of parsley.

Broil for about 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Can you hear the kids setting the table? Calling everyone for dinner?
Getting ready to bless the food?
Can you see The Man of the House's smile as he walks into the house and smells the wonderful aroma?
Can you hear Abby, our dog, sniffing at her dog chow while tears of unfairness drop into her bowl?

I like to add a green vegetable with this dish. Today I chose lightly steamed broccoli.
But a nice garden or caesar salad would be perfect.


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