Our DVR records every episode of America’s Test Kitchen for me and I saw this recipe for chicken parm on that show a few weeks ago. I don’t think I’ve ever made chicken parm at home but it’s something I love to order in restaurants so I was excited to give this a try! The recipe is designed to be lighter than typical chicken parm because the chicken isn’t fried. Instead, panko breadcrumbs are toasted and then the breaded chicken is baked after being coated with cooking spray.

I knew this recipe was probably going to take us a while so we saved it for a weekend and tried it on Saturday night. Between making the sauce and getting the chicken breaded and baked, it took us almost an hour and a half to get dinner on the table. This is FAR more time than we typically spend on dinner but I’m so glad we did! We both loved this chicken parm. I think we agreed that some of the key reasons we enjoyed it were that the breading stayed on the chicken and was also really crispy. The combination of panko and parmesan was yummy and I know we’ll be going back to this recipe before too long!

Lighter Chicken Parm
from Cooks Illustrated

Tomato Sauce

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
table salt and ground black pepper

Chicken

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
table salt
ground black pepper
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon water
nonstick cooking spray
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into cutlets
3 ounces reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves

For the Sauce:

Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor until mostly smooth, about ten 1-second pulses; set aside. Cook the garlic, tomato paste, oil, and pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and cook until the sauce is thickened and measures 2 cups, about 20 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside until needed.

For the Chicken:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan.

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites and water together.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg whites, and finally coat with the bread crumbs, Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.

Spray the tops of the chicken with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the sauce onto the center of each cutlet and top the sauce with 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella. Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve, passing the remaining sauce and Parmesan separately.

Serves 6.