Every single Monday night, the Belmont Hotel has their “All Around The World” parmi night, featuring a menu full of $12.50 parmigianas inspired by the cuisines of 12 different countries (e.g. the Mexican parmi, with sour cream, salsa and guacamole; Hawaiian, with ham and pineapple; or the Greek parmi, with eggplant and feta). And every single Monday night, I forget to go. Last Monday, however, my family and I were determined to get there, putting alerts in our phone calendars and reminding each other that Parmi night was coming up.
The restaurant was booked up when I called in the morning but we were told we could just rock up and hopefully grab a seat in the bar. Thinking it would be too early for the dinner rush to have hit yet, we arrived at 6.15 to find an absolutely packed bar. We ended up going to Cucina One 12 up the road instead – watch this space for that review – which was delicious, but my craving for a great big parmi lingered, perhaps due to the fact that last week saw constant rain and grey skies, instilling in me a need for comfort food.
Two weeks ago, still with parmis on the mind as I had, of course, missed that week’s Monday night parmi fest, I cooked these Avocado Chicken Parmigianas for the family, forgetting that I hate cooked avocado. They were fine, but last week I decided to perfect the dish and made a few modifications.
The following recipe is for a ravenous-style chicken parmi – big, fresh pieces of chicken topped with the best quality ingredients. As I was making it up as I went along, a lot of measurements are “to taste” or “a dash of”, because 1. I was experimenting and jotting down basic notes and 2. you might like to prepare yours a bit differently, say with less tabasco in the tomato sauce, or more cheese on top. The entire dish turned out to be Chicken Parmigianas with Polenta Chips and Greek Salad ; it is not a super quick recipe to prepare so I would not recommend it for busy working people who are starved after a long day and need to grab something fast; but if you have the time to make the dish I think it is well worth the effort. There are two stages; some afternoon prep and the prep closer to dinner time.
ravenous-style chicken parmigianas with polenta chips and Greek salad
Ingredients – polenta chips
– 1 cup polenta
– 2 tablespoons butter
– 4 cups water
– 1 cup milk
– 1/4 red onion, sliced
– Olives (approx 80 grams)
– 2 tomatoes, diced
– 100 grams feta, diced
– 2 baby cucumbers, sliced
– 2 chicken breast fillets, halved lengthways
– 1/2 cup plain flour
– 2 tablespoons milk
– 2 eggs
– 1 1/2 cups dried breadcrumbs
– 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
– 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
– Approx 4 large slices of good quality ham (I use Istra because it has the best, smoky flavour)
– 1 can chopped tomatoes
– 2 satchets tomato paste
– salt and pepper to taste
– dash of tabasco (optional)
– dash of red wine (I used a Shiraz)
– dash of Worcestershire sauce
– Begin with the polenta, as it needs to set in the fridge. I recommend starting in the afternoon, say at about 3pm to give it enough time to form a solid block. Cook polenta according to pack instructions – I brought 4 cups of water to the boil, added one cup of polenta, and a bit of butter, milk and salt to taste. Leave to simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes.
– Meanwhile, add the tomato sauce ingredients to a saucepan on the stove and simmer over a low heat to let the flavour develop.
– When polenta is cooked, spoon it into a square/rectangle dish and leave to refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
– When you are satisfied with the consistency of the tomato sauce – it needs to have a bit of thickness so it doesn’t run off the chicken – refrigerate. Your afternoon prep is done 🙂
In the evening:
– Preheat oven to 220°C/200°C fan-forced, and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
– Place the halved chicken breasts between 2 sheets of glad wrap. Pound with a meat tenderiser until about 5mm thick.
– On two separate plates, spread the flour and the breadcrumbs.
– Lightly whisk the milk and eggs together.
– To crumb, coat the chicken pieces in flour, then in the egg mixture. Coat in breadcrumbs and pat them on to secure them. Put the chicken on your lined tray.
– N.b. some recipes recommend to spray the chicken with cooking oil, but I forgot to and mine turned out fine – yay for less fat!
– The chicken is quite quick to cook, so I would begin baking my polenta now. Grab the polenta from the fridge and remove from tray. Cut the polenta into fat “chips”, place on an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes (baking alone doesn’t seem to crisp the polenta up really well, so later we will finish the chips off under the grill).
– While the polenta is baking, prepare your side dish/salad; I served my dinner with a Greek salad which was light and refreshing against all those rich flavours.
– Chop tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and feta; leave in separate bowls.
– On an oven rack under the polenta, put the chicken in the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
– Remove the chicken from the oven. Top the parmigianas with the tomato sauce, slices of ham and the cheese mixture. Return to oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until chicken is golden and crumbs look crispy.
– Remove chicken from oven and place the polenta chips under a hot grill.
– Combine the feta, tomatoes, onion, cucumber and olives in a bowl and toss with olive oil. Plate up the chicken and the salad, and (hopefully) by now your polenta chips should be golden and crunchy.
That’s it! Only about a million steps, but well worth the effort. The chicken is lean and fresh; the ham is smoky and crisps up at the edges; it’s not a cheese overload and what cheese there is is good quality; and the tomato paste is rich and comforting. The polenta chips are a unique change from potato chips and a salad, especially this Greek salad, is fresh and cuts through all those strong, heavy flavours. This is comfort food for sure, and was a perfect match to the grey skies and constant patter of rain last week.