I started with a basic breaded and baked chicken breast. For speed, I cut the breasts into thin cutlets. And that speed isn't just a convenience. It also pays dividends on texture. The less time the chicken spends in the oven, the more tender and moist the end result.
For a crunchy coating, I kept it simple — panko breadcrumbs. Dunk the chicken in some egg, drag it through the breadcrumbs and you're ready to move on.
While the chicken bakes, the sauce comes together in just minutes on the stovetop. I used puttanesca — the fast and flavourful pasta sauce — as my inspiration. A few high-flavour ingredients pull it all together in no time. And with a lot less of the usual fat that clogs this dish. We do finish it with Parmesan cheese, but the sauce is so flavourful already, a little goes a long way.
CHICKEN PUTTANESCA PARMESAN
Start to finish: 30 minutes
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 to 6 oil-packed anchovies
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons capers
5 large leaves fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 400 F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
One at a time, carefully slice each chicken breast in half horizontally to create two thin halves.
Place the egg in a wide, shallow bowl. In a second bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
One at a time, dunk the chicken cutlets first in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs, pressing as needed to adhere them to the meat. Arrange the breaded cutlets on the baking sheet, then mist the tops with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the anchovies and red pepper flakes, then saute until the anchovies have dissolved. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook just until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the olives, garlic, capers and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
When the chicken is done, transfer each cutlet to a serving plate. Spoon the sauce over each, then top with Parmesan.
Nutrition information per serving: 360 calories; 100 calories from fat (28 per cent of total calories); 11 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 105 mg cholesterol; 33 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 30 g protein; 1010 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org