Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baked Chicken Parmesan Panini

I was actually prepared to post a different recipe today but I was so inspired by Yvonne's healthy Turkey Meatballs and the healthy Baked Oatmeal we posted prior to that so I decided to continue with the healthy trend. Oh don't you worry, we have some decadent desserts coming up. This weekend I made an amazing Peach Upside Down Cake and an easy and delicious French Yogurt & Berries Cake that I can't wait to share with you, but for now I hope you'll enjoy this recipe for Baked Chicken Parmesan Panini.

Chicken Parmesan is typically fried but this time I baked it in the oven. I have to admit that it is hard to duplicate the crispness (not to mention the color and flavor) that you get from frying, but you will not miss it with this Panini.

Note: If you don't want to make the homemade Tomato Relish, you can skip this step and use your favorite store bought pasta sauce. Also, if you can't get the thin sliced chicken breasts, slice 2 regular boneless skinless chicken breasts in half horizontally to create 4 breasts, then pound each breast to an even thickness if needed.

Baked Chicken Parmesan Panini
Makes 4 sandwiches

4 thin sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 cup flour
1 egg
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (divided)
Salt & Pepper

Tomato Relish Ingredients:
3 Roma tomatoes, diced and seeded
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more if needed)
Salt, Pepper & Sugar to taste

Sandwich Ingredients:
4 deli rolls
4 slices Fontina or Provolone Cheese
Olive Oil
Optional: Fresh Basil for garnish


Make the Tomato Relish

Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are softened and transluscent. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian Seasoning and Salt & Pepper (be sure to crush the Italian Seasoning in the palm of your hand or between your fingers to release the flavor). Stir well to combine. If the mixture is too thick, add a little olive oil. Cover and simmer for a few minutes. Taste mixture and add a dash of sugar if needed. Cover and simmer for a few minutes more. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Note: Since I didn't have any fresh basil on hand for garnish, I took a cube of frozen basil and added it into the Tomato Relish along with the tomatoes and tomato paste. It was really good.

Have you seen the cubes of frozen herbs at Trader Joe's? They're great to have on hand in an emergency especially for those time when you don't have fresh herbs on hand.

Cook the Chicken

Create a breading station with 3 shallow dishes. In one dish combine the bread crumbs, the Parmesan Cheese and 1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning. In another dish, whisk the egg with a little salt & pepper. In the third dish, combine the flour and 1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning. Note: If you happen to have any fresh parsley, I like to chop some up and add it into the bread crumb mixture.

Dredge each chicken breast, one at a time in the following order - first dredge in flour & shake off excess flour, then dredge in the egg mixture make sure the breast is fully coated and shake off the excess egg, finally dredge in the bread crumb mixture. Make sure the breast is well coated with the bread crumbs pressing the crumbs down onto the breast to help it adhere if needed. Place on the wire baking rack. Sprinkle with a little olive oil to help with the browning.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, turn over and bake for approx 5-10 minutes more.

Remove from oven and assemble your sandwiches.

Assemble the sandwiches

Butter the exterior of your Deli Rolls (top and bottom). Brush the interior with a little olive oil. Place a chicken breast on the bottom of the roll. Top with a slice of cheese cut in half to cover the surface of the chicken then top with some of the tomato relish.

Heat a grill pan over medium heat.

Place sandwiches on the heated grill pan and press down with a spatula. Cook for a few minutes (until the bread is brown and toasty with good grill marks) then flip over and cook the other side. Remove when the bread is nice and toasted with good grill marks and the cheese is melted.

Garnish with fresh basil (if using).

Serve hot.

A few tips: I love to use Panko Bread Crumbs instead of regular traditional bread crumbs. They're larger and crispier and have a lighter flavor. You can usually find them in the Asian aisle. I also like to use fresh chopped parsley in the breading along with the Parmesan cheese & Italian Seasoning. Since I had neither on hand this time, I used the regular bread crumbs and omitted the fresh parsley.

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