I do not miss getting up with the birds to get three kids off to school. That said, on Tuesday morning, 7:45AM on-the-dot, when I'm laying in bed and I hear the brakes squeal on the school bus, at the school bus stop across the street and just outside our bedroom window, I won't be able to not reminisce about how much I do not miss the organized, orchestrated, whirlwind chaos. School shopping, lunches, after-school activities, fund-raisers, homework, playtime, bedtime -- and, of course, getting a really good meal on the dinner table in the midst of it all.
Lot's of busy moms turn to the slow cooker to help them through these trying times. I rarely did, because most recipes can't be cooked to perfection in a Crockpot. When my kids went back to school, my electric skillet was my go-to secret weapon. There's more: my family preferred a skillet dinner over a Crockpot dinner -- unless it was my chili or pulled-pork sandwiches.
In terms of countertop appliances, I think the 16" electric skillet is one of the most versatile. Its big surface area allows you to pan-fry or saute an array of foods (meatballs, hamburgers, steaks and/or chops) in one large batch -- enough to feed a family of 6. It's great for making pancakes for breakfast, grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and, reheating late-night leftover pizza. You can even boil water in it to cook a lot of pasta or ravioli. My favorite feature (which you can't easily do on the stovetop) is: On the warm setting, with the lid kept on, your on-the-go family can grab a hot meal when it is convenient for them -- in between inconveniently scheduled activities.
1 electric skillet + 1 baking pan = stress-free, mess-free chicken parmesan
My method for making chicken parmesan takes all of the stressful mess out of making chicken parmesan and I came up with it all by myself. I think you know what I am talking about -- conventional methods require three pans (one for a dry flour dredge, one for a wet egg dip, and, one for a breadcrumb coat). It's not hard to do, but, by the time you're done, you have quite a mess to cleanup before you even start to saute the parmesan. I figured out a way to eliminate 99.9% of the cleanup. Read on:
I'm limiting all of the mess to 1, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined with plastic wrap and parchment paper, and, when I'm done, I don't even have to wash the baking pan.
~ Step 2. Season and sprinkle tops with freshly ground sea salt, peppercorn blend and Wondra flour. Flip them over. Salt, pepper and flour the second sides. Set aside 5-10 minutes, to allow the flour time to absorb moisture.
~ Step 3. In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk 3 large eggs with 1/4 cup water. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Using your fingertips, flip each piece of chicken back and forth, two or three times, until it is completely coated in egg mixture.
~ Step 4. Top each piece of chicken with about 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs (about 1 1/4 total cups of panko breadcrumbs). Using your fingertips, pat and press the breadcrumbs onto the tops. Don't flip the chicken over. We'll coat the second sides in the next step.
~ Step 6. Increase heat to 250-260 degrees and cook chicken until nicely golden on the first side, 4-5 minutes. Prior to turning chicken over to the second side, add 3-4 more tablespoons of EVOO to pan.
~ Step 7. Sprinkle top of each cutlet with a generous 1 teaspoon Parmigiano-Reggianno cheese (I eyeball this and use a microplane grater), then, place 1 folded slice of mozzarella cheese on the top of each cutlet. Reduce heat to 125-150 degrees, put lid on skillet and wait for cheese to melt, about 3 minutes.
~ Step 8. You have a choice to make here and it all boils down to a matter of personal preference. You can drizzle about 1-1 1/2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce around the chicken cutlets, working it underneath each one by lifting it up a bit with the spatula, and bring them to a simmer for about 1 minute, or, you can serve the chicken and sauce it afterwards. I serve it as is, because I prefer my chicken parmesan with a crispy top and bottom crust.
Note: Parmesan that has not been sauced reheats better than previously-sauced parmesan.
Serve garnished with a sprig of fresh parsley or basil:
Special Equipment List: 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; plastic wrap; parchment paper; flat-sided meat mallet; 1-cup measuring container; fork; electric skillet; spatula; microplane grater
Cook's Note: I'm no stranger to Parmesan recipes that are off the beaten path. ~ Not Your Mama's Parmigiana" (Chicken or Veal) ~ is one such example. To get my recipe for batter-dipped deep-fried Chicken Parmesan, just click into Categories 3, 11, 12 or 19.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)