Chicken parmigiana is a popular Australian and Italian-American dish consisting of a crumbed (breaded) chicken breast topped with pasta (tomato) sauce and mozzarella, parmesan or provolone cheese. A slice of ham or bacon is sometimes added, but not all chefs are in agreement with the addition of pork. It is based on a combination of the Italian melanzane alla Parmigiana, a dish using breaded eggplant slices instead of chicken, along with costelette Parmigiana.
Chicken parmigiana is also known by other names: Chicken parmesan, Pollo alla parmigiana, colloquially in Australia as a parmi or parma and in the United States as ‘chicken parm’.
Chicken parmigiana is included as the base of a number of different meals, including sandwiches and pies, and the meal is used as the subject of eating contests at some restaurants.
The dish is regularly served throughout Australia, where it is considered a staple of pub food. Chicken parmigiana is typically served in Australia with a side of chips and salad, although there is some dispute as to whether the chips should be served under or next to the chicken. Its popularity has led to chicken parmigiana being the subject of reviews on dedicated websites which compare the dish as purchased from various pubs within a region.
In the United States and Canada, chicken parmigiana is often served as an entree, and sometimes with a side of or on top of pasta. Many restaurants also offer chicken parm sandwiches, putting chicken parmigiana between two slices of bread. In the US, a recipe for chicken parmigiana was published in The New York Times in 1962. The New York Public Library has in their collection a menu from New York City Italian restaurant that has been in the same location since 1906 which shows that chicken parmigiana was being offered in 1958. In the same collection at the New York Public Library, there is a menu from a restaurant on board a cruise ship of the Italian Line, that cruised the North Atlantic between North America and Europe and had offered Petti Di Pollo Alla Parmigiana in 1956 to the wealth class that could afford a scenic cruise. There is a recipe that was published in the 1953 issue of the New York Herald Tribune that used frozen fried chicken patties or fillets along with other pre-processed foods to make a version of the dish at home.
- 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (or panko for a crustier coating)
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (plus extra for topping if desired)
- 2 large skinless chicken breast fillets (cut in half through the centre)
- ¼ cup flour (seasoned lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper)
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- 1 - 2 cups simple pasta sauce
- 4 slices medium thick leg ham
- 1 - 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (or more if desired)
- crusty or garlic bread, garden salad, and chips (for serving)
To prepare chicken breasts
- Place the chicken breasts between cling film sheets and bash out with a rolling pin or meat mallet until they are about 5 mm thick.
- Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan in a large bowl. Coat chicken lightly with flour, dip into egg and then breadcrumb mix, pressing firmly. Refrigerate until required.
To make the dish
- Warm the pasta sauce
- Heat oven grill to high (or use a skillet with a small amount of cooking oil) and cook the chicken for 5 minutes each side, then remove (keep an eye on them to ensure the crumb coating doesn't burn).
- Pour half the warmed pasta sauce into a shallow ovenproof dish and top with the chicken.
- Lay a slice of ham over each cooked chicken breast.
- Pour the remaining pasta sauce over the ham slices
- Scatter the mozzarella evenly (and Parmesan, if using) over the top, and grill for 3-4 minutes until the cheese has melted (and browned) and the sauce is bubbling hot.
- Serve with crusty or garlic bread, garden salad, and chips