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No Parm, No Fowl

Master chicken Parmesan, the ultimate Italian comfort food
Chicken Parmesan
Photo: Dave Katz/Tasting Table

There's something truly transformative about baking panfried, breaded chicken with tomato sauce and cheese (see the recipe).

Chicken Parm can be broken down into key components: the sauce, the breading and the cheese. To help us make the very best version, we consult with chix magnets Craig Koketsu and Vinny Dotolo.

Keep the sauce simple, stupid. The tomato sauce is really just a supporting player to the stars of breaded chicken and cheese. There should be enough to be present, but not so much that the dish would be described as wet.

"It's very simple," Dotolo of Jon & Vinny's in Los Angeles and Koketsu of Quality Italian in NYC both say verbatim, each choosing a sauce made with only San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, crushed red chile and salt.

We followed their lead, but added one secret ingredient for extra oomph: a Parm rind, which lends an intense cheese flavor to the sauce.

March to your own crumb. Breading and panfrying the chicken is essential. Dotolo uses a blend of panko, Italian bread crumbs and grated Parm, and Koketsu does the same with the addition of dried herbs.

We decided to go somewhere in the middle and used panko bread crumbs mixed with grated Parmesan cheese and dried oregano. The resulting chicken has a light, crisp coating that perfectly catches and soaks up the sauce and cheese.

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More cheese, please. "The secret is the ratio of cheese (Parmesan, pecorino, mozzarella), which we can't reveal," Koketsu tells us via email—followed by a smiley face emoji. This cheese combo coats the famous chicken Parm at Quality Italian, where it is served in the size and shape of a pizza pie, and sliced as such. Dotolo adds that he likes to shred the mozzarella for more textured melting.

We stuck to thin slices of fresh mozzarella layered over the sauced chicken with a hefty dose of grated Parmesan over top. The combination of the two bubbles in the oven creating a crispy crust of Parm over melty mozzarella. The last bit of advice? A heavy sprinkling of sliced basil will brighten up the hearty dish.

Now that's Parm-to-table eating at its finest.

Find Quality Italian here, or in our DINE app.
Find Jon & Vinny's here, or in our DINE app.

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