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Easy Recipes for Eggplant Parmesan and Chicken Parmesan

Although these dishes are super different, they have the same name, so I doubled down, and here are two recipes for you - Chicken Parmesan and Eggplant Parmesan. They do also share the most important component - grated cheese!

Why do these distinct dishes have the same name?

Well, there are definitely some similarities between these two dishes, but they are not as similar as their names might suggest. Eggplant Parmesan is actually a traditional Italian dish, whereas Chicken Parmesan was developed in North America, albeit by American Italian communities. I think the name Parmesan is more common, however the Italian Melanzane alla Parmigiana was the original name of the eggplant version where Melanzane translates to eggplant and alla Parmigiana translates to ‘in the style of Parma’, which is where Parmesan cheese is made. Sometimes I still hear Eggplant Parmigiana or Chicken Parmigiana, but it is just the Italian form of the French word that we now commonly use - Parmesan.

For The Sauce You Will Need:

One large oven friendly pot or deep frying pan

Some olive oil, salt and pepper

1 head of crushed garlic

1 diced onion

Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 large cans of whole peeled tomatoes

1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves

1/2 tsp of dried oregano

How To Make The Sauce:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C.

2. Start the sauce by cooking the onions until they are soft, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another couple of minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook while continuously stirring for a couple more minutes before adding the wine and bringing to the boil until the wine is almost evaporated which will be only a minute or so.

4. Next, throw in the canned tomatoes and break them up with your wooden spoon or get your hands right in there to pull them apart. Add basil and oregano, and stir.

5. Put about a cup of water into the tomato cans, and swirl it around to get all the juices out then pour it into the pan and stir.

6. This entire pan then goes into the oven for a couple of hours to roast the sauce. You will probably want to open it up half way through and give it a stir.

For The Eggplant Parmesan Assembly You Will Need:

One large lasagna dish

Salt and pepper

About 4 medium size eggplants peeled and sliced lengthwise about ½ inch thick

3 cups of panko

1 1/2 tsp of dried oregano

1 1/2 cups of finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups of flour

5 eggs beaten

1 1/3 cups of olive oil

1/2 cup of finely chopped basil and parsley

1 1/3 cups of grated Mozzarella cheese (low moisture)

About 6oz of fresh Mozzarella cheese thinly sliced

How To Assemble The Eggplant Parmesan:

1. This first step with the eggplant assembly is to salt the eggplant to bring some of the moisture out. This is the most important step so that the end product is creamy soft eggplant, and not wet mush. You can just place the slices of eggplant on a baking tray lined with a few layers of paper towel and sprinkle salt on each piece. Put more paper towel on top and continue stacking the slices of eggplant. If you have it, place another baking tray on top with some weight on it, and if not, just put some pressure on top toward the end to try and squeeze out a bit more of the moisture. You should let the eggplant sit like this for about an hour.

2. While you are waiting, you can mix the panko, oregano, salt and pepper and about ¾ cups of Parmesan cheese in a shallow bowl that is big enough for dredging the eggplant slices through.

3. Put the flour in a separate bowl and beaten eggs in a third bowl.

4. Once the eggplant slices are ready, dredge them through the flour, then egg and finally panko, and you can either fry each piece over medium heat, or bake them.

5. Mix the chopped herbs, low moisture Mozzarella cheese, and remaining Parmesan cheese in a bowl.

6. Now you are ready to build your dish! Start with a layer of the sauce, then a single layer of eggplant, and some more sauce. Top that second sauce layer with about 1/3 of the herb and grated cheese mixture, then add another layer of eggplant. Continue building your dish until all of the eggplant us used.

7. Top with foil and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes before you take the foil off to add the sliced Mozzarella. Finish this dish with about 15 minutes under the broiler to melt the top layer of Mozzarella.

8. Let the dish cool to just above room temperature before you cut it, or the layers will slump into the space where you take some out!

For The Chicken Parmesan Assembly You Will Need:

The good news is that you can use the same sauce and same panko mixture as for the Eggplant Parmesan.

One foil lined baking tray

Sauce (as above)

Panko mixture, flour and egg (as above)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half and pounded out so they are uniform thickness

About 6oz of fresh Mozzarella cheese thinly sliced

Optional: 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

How To Assemble The Chicken Parmesan:

1. Preheat the oven to 430F / 215C.

2. Dredge the chicken in the flour, egg and panko (in that order).

3. For chicken, I would definitely recommend giving it a quick fry in oil so the coating sticks and is crispy. About 5 minutes on each side should do it.

4. Place each piece on a baking tray, top with sauce, a few slices of fresh Mozzarella cheese, and some grated Parmesan cheese if you want that extra flavor punch on the topping.

5. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden and the chicken is completely cooked.

6. My recommendation for serving is to place the chicken on top of a generous portion of spaghetti that has been tossed with fresh basil, parsley, cracked black pepper, olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese. Do you notice that I insert cheese wherever possible in this recipe!?

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