Creamy Parmesan Chicken


This is a standby. I’ve made it for my parents, my grandparents, college roommates, my brother, Italian-food-hating friends, and picky children. I have yet to feed it to a person whose eyes haven’t rolled back in their head while asking for more sauce, and one ex-boyfriend went so far as to pour some leftover sauce over his popcorn. I don't recommend that, by the way, but it is a testimony to its decadence. It’s unexpected, and it’s so easy I could do it blindfolded.

My parents moved to Wisconsin in 2004. They stumbled upon a darling Italian restaurant in a nearby town called the Mississippi Belle, owned by Chef Frank Amendola, and brought us there one year for Christmas Eve dinner. My life as a home cook changed forever when I ordered the Chicken Bianco...I had to have that chicken in my life, but I would soon be far away from Wisconsin come the end of Christmas break. So I went back to school, and in my tiny dorm room kitchen practiced and perfected my own version of Chef Amendola’s recipe. And it’s a good thing, too – the restaurant is since under new ownership, and Chicken Bianco was removed from the menu. In fact, it's not even an Italian restaurant anymore.

I usually serve this with some broccoli sautéed in olive oil and garlic, and with a big loaf of toasted Italian bread. The sauce goes far, but it doesn’t reheat very well. If you must reheat it, do it in a saucepan over low heat, and add a little extra cream to keep the liquids from separating.

You will need:

4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 slices deli ham
4 slices Mozzarella cheese (sandwich sliced)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pint heavy whipping cream, or a combination of heavy cream and half-and-half, equal parts of each
½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or any bagged/jarred/container of Parmesan will do)
1 teaspoon chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
    Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.

    Pound the chicken breasts to flatten just slightly. Salt and pepper liberally on both sides.

    Add the chicken to the hot oil and brown on both sides, until cooked most of the way through (you will later finish the chicken in the oven). It should bounce back a bit when pressed with a finger. Remove chicken from the pan and drain off oil on paper towels.

    To make the sauce:
    While the chicken is cooking, melt butter in a separate skillet over low heat. Once butter is melted, add minced garlic and raise heat slightly. Cook until soft (do not allow garlic to brown).
    Pour in heavy cream and reduce heat. Once the cream starts to bubble/froth, add in Parmesan cheese and stir quickly to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Add chopped parsley and stir. Allow mixture to thicken, coating the back of a spoon; it should be slightly thinner than an Alfredo sauce. Add salt depending on the saltiness of your Parmesan cheese. Add cheese until sauce is sufficiently thick, and drop heat as low as possible to keep warm.

    To assemble the chicken:
    Cut 2 slices of ham in half, or into whatever size will cover your chicken breasts. Place one slice of ham and one slice of mozzarella on top of each breast and place into a glass baking dish. Top chicken breasts with the entire pan of sauce and place in a 400-degree oven. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the cheese browns slightly and the sauce bubbles.

    1 comment:

    1. I'm actually pretty positive that I'm going to try my hand at this this weekend. :) We're going to go grocery shopping tonight/tomorrow.

      I'll let you know how it goes. :D