Amy’s Beat Bobby Flay Chicken Parm

Image of Amy's Beat Bobby Flay Chicken Parm with pastaMaybe Classic Chicken Parm
We all have those time-suck TV shows that you turn to because nothing else interesting is on. These are the shows that you tell yourself you will just watch for a little while and then 3 hours later (because it was a marathon) you’re still watching. I have a few go-to favorites. Big Bang Theory is one. The worst offender though is Beat Bobby Flay on Food Network. I found myself down that rabbit hole once again about a week or so ago and what’s worse is I haven’t been able to get one of the recipes out of my head.

That recipe? Chicken Parmesan.

I am a fan of crispy fried chicken in all forms. This particular version is a favorite because it adds melted mozzarella on top. I mean, what’s not to love? I will say that I definitely fall into the less sauce is more camp here which may not be traditional. I like some sauce on top. I don’t like so much sauce that my chicken is soggy but to each his or her own. You make it the way you want to make it.

What struck me about the way the chefs were preparing this dish during that episode is that Bobby was adding ground toasted fennel to the flour dredge for the chicken—because it was how his mother would make it. I had never heard of this. By doing some light research and asking a few friends, I have found that a number of Italian mothers and grandmothers will make chicken Parm this way. However, finding a published recipe that includes the fennel is difficult.

The first thing I think of when I think about the flavor of dried fennel is Italian sausage. I love Italian sausage. The idea of that Italian sausage flavor married with the Chicken Parm has had my mouth watering for days and I haven’t had the time to make it for dinner. It’s always crazy busy at the beginning of the school year…

I’m going to give it a go this weekend by adapting my favorite Chicken Parm recipe. I’m hoping for a win…

Amy’s Beat Bobby Flay Chicken Parm
Yields 4 servings

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1-1/2 pounds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
2 large eggs, beaten until frothy
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil, for frying
2 cups marinara sauce
12 ounces whole milk mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
sliced fresh basil for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 ºF.

Toast the fennel seeds
Place the fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat and stir continuously—just until they become very fragrant and darken slightly or begin to pop. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. So, watch the seeds carefully so they don’t burn. Immediately transfer them to a dish to cool.

Grind the spices
Grind the fennel seeds and black pepper to a fine powder with an electric coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle.

Prep the chicken
Trim chicken breasts and slice them in half length-wise. You will end up with 4 equal-thickness cutlets. Pound the chicken cutlets between plastic wrap into an even 1/3-inch thickness. Season the cutlets with salt and pepper.

Fill the dipping bowls
In a shallow bowl, stir together 1 cup of flour, ground fennel, salt, and black pepper. In a second bowl, whisk 2 eggs until frothy. In a third bowl, stir together panko with parmesan cheese.

Heat the pan
Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan to about a 1/4 inch up the side of your pan. The amount of oil will vary depending on the size of your skillet.

Bread the chicken
Dip both sides of each chicken cutlet into the flour mixture, tapping off the excess. Then dip the cutlet into the beaten egg mixture, allowing the excess egg to drip off. And, finally dip the cutlet into the breadcrumbs, pressing cutlets into the breading to ensure a thick, even coating of crumbs.

Cook the chicken
Once the oil is hot, add the chicken in batches without crowding the pan. Sauté each piece for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until they are golden brown and just cooked through.

Assemble the Dish
Spray a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish lightly with oil. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in the bottom of the casserole. Spoon the marinara sauce over the chicken horizontally, keeping the ends exposed and crispy. Top each chicken breast with the sliced mozzarella.

Bake the Dish
Bake the casserole uncovered for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Garnish with basil, if desired. And, serve with your favorite pasta on the side.

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