I don’t think I’ve ever even been tempted to order chicken parmesan at a restaurant. There are tons of dishes I like better at any Italian restaurant, including eggplant parm, and so I have always ordered those without having been tempted by the chicken parm.
My mother, on the other hand, is nuts for chicken parm. Perhaps it started as an affinity for veal parm… but as veal grew to have a dubious reputation she switched over to chicken. Maybe I’ve just never been enough of a meat enthusiast to see the appeal of a breaded cutlet on spaghetti, but chicken parm has always been Saundra’s thing, not mine… until recently when Saundra made a statement so bold and so shocking that I just had to respond…
She says that the best Chicken Parm she’s ever had is from the Olive Garden.
Surely the mass produced, MSG-filled, big chain restaurant chicken parm couldn’t possibly be better than fresh, hand-made dishes from local Italian restaurants? Minutellos? Alexanders? Pleasure Bar? Nope, said Saundra, the Olive Garden chicken parm is better than all of those. I refused to stand for such a notion, and so I set out to make a chicken parm that Saundra would find better than the Olive Garden. I researched recipes, I consulted Italian home chefs, I assembled my ingredients and I was ready to go. I cooked up a batch of chicken parm, served it up to Saundra and….
It was good, she said, but Olive Garden was still better.
What!? How was it possible that my from-scratch, fresh-ingredients, straight-from-the-oven chicken parm could still be eclipsed by Olive Garden?
“I don’t know what the difference is,” said Saundra. “There’s something about it… you just can’t stop eating it. It’s addictive… like Doritos!”
And that was when I got the idea to make chicken parm with Doritos in the breading! Saundra declares this recipe to be a contender against Olive Garden; I suspect she may never concede Olive Garden completely, but in the meantime:
SARAH’S DORITO CHICKEN PARMESAN
– plain bread crumbs
– grated parmesan cheese
– Dorito crumbs
The Rest of it
1 to 2 lbs. chicken breast, cut and pounded thin
pasta and red sauce
additional cheese, shredded parm or provolone (optional)
If you have particularly large chicken breasts you may have to cut them cross-wise through the middle (like slicing a bagel) as well as cutting them in half. You want to pound the breast thin, and pounding the entire thickness of the breast is not only a lot of work, but it’s going to leave the breast meat too pulverized to work with. Chicken breast falls apart more easily when pounded than does pork or beef, so I thin it out first with a cut and then with a light pounding.
Lightly salt the pounded breasts and set aside.
Prepare the breading first by crumbing the Doritos. Place them in a large freezer bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into as fine a crumb as you can. Transfer them to a new bag (the one you used for crumbing will inevitably incur damage and holes in the process) and add an equal amount of plain breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese. I used a cup each of Dorito crumbs, bread crumbs and parmesan the last time I made it.
Beat a couple eggs with a splash of milk and pour it into a wide bowl or plate.
Put some flour in another freezer bag. I like to use gram flour (i.e. garbanzo bean flour) in order to keep the glycemic index low for Saundra, but any flour should work okay. Add a little salt and/or pepper to the flour if you like.
Toss a few cutlets at a time with the flour. When they are thoroughly coated, dip them in the eggs and then in the crumbs. You may find it easier to do the crumb layer on a plate, rather than in the bag.
Repeat with each cutlet. Stack them with parchment or wax paper in between to avoid sticking. Refrigerate while getting the other items assembled. If you are making red sauce from scratch, you might want to start it now; if using a jar, just put it over a low fire to warm.
Heat about an inch or so or oil in a wide skillet. Have a few baking sheets and an old kitchen towel standing by. Fry the breaded chicken cutlets in the hot oil. There should be enough oil to cover the cutlets when a few are in the pan. Turn the cutlets to make sure they are getting done evenly on both sides. When cutlets are golden brown, place them first on the old kitchen towel (just to absorb some of the excess oil) and then on the baking sheet. Once you get enough cutlets to fill the baking sheet, you can put some additional cheese on top before putting them in the oven to keep warm. Keep them at 200 or 250 degrees, again, just to keep them warm while finishing the meal.
When all cutlets are fried and in the oven, finish dinner preparations, i.e. the pasta and red sauce and/or other side dishes. Check on the cutlets often and turn down the temperature if you have to leave them in awhile, as you don’t want them to get dried out.
Serve with pasta and plenty of sauce on the side.