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Chicken Parmigiana in Under 30 Minutes
Easy Chicken Parmigana
This meal is for people that cannot cook, do not want to cook or just simply do not have the time like busy moms, single, working dads or parents that work the night shift. It is extremely simple and can be made in about 30 minutes or less.
A.K.A Chicken Parmesan
Origin of the Recipe
My wife's sister can't cook. It is probably because she has absolutely no interest in cooking to begin with so she was living off a diet of take out and frozen dinners. That's no way for a thirty year old woman to live. Fast food is, generally speaking, horribly unhealthy for you and extremely expensive compared to making your own meals so I decided to come up with some recipes that were so simple that even a non-cook could prepare them easily. Her requirements were simple, she wanted to spend the least amount of time possible in the kitchen, thirty minutes at most. The ingredients had to be easy to get from any local grocery store like a Walmart or Safeway and she did not want to do a lot of prep work. In effect she wanted a frozen dinner that was not frozen.
- 1 Cup Mac n' Cheese
- 1 Cup Pasta Sauce
- Chicken Tenders
- Cheese, Paresan plus Mozarella
Fast Meals, Quick Recipes
This recipe is not just for the time conscious cook, it is also a great introduction to cooking in general. So, for those that just do not know how to cook, but want to learn, I have also included some ways to further develop this meal into something more sophisticated at the bottom of the page.
I have also made some recommendations about exactly what products to use in this recipe but you can probably substitute your own preferences with great results. You can order them from Amazon below or get them from your local grocery store.
- Defrost the breaded chicken tenders in your microwave. They will go a little limp and lack that crisp crust of bread crumbs that really make this dish a so wonderful to eat but we will fix that with the broiler. Put them on a plate.
- Prepare the mac n' cheese per the instructions on the box. Use the Kraft Mac N Cheese shown below because they just require heating in the microwave. Should take less than 10 minutes.
- When the mac n cheese is heated, put it on a plate right next to the chicken tenders.
- Put the plate under the broiler in your oven (Australians, please see the note below if you just said "What's a broiler, mate?"). You can transfer the ingredients to a different plate later in the process if it has become too hot to serve but that is rarely the case. The purpose of using the broiler is to crisp up the chicken tenders so you will need to flip them over at some point to get both sides crisp. Should take less than 10 minutes total, depending on your broiler. I like to put the mac n' cheese in there at the same time because I like a little brown, crispiness to my mac n' cheese.
- When the tenders are nice and crisp, take the plate, Pour a little pasta sauce on the plate. I use about 3/4 of a cup to a cup. If you pout it over the top of the tenders, they will get soggy again very quickly so I Iike to leave it on the side.
- Cover the tenders with the grated mozarella (buy it pre-grated to save time and you will not not have to clean a cheese grater after the meal).
- I like to add a little zing to the mac n' cheese by topping it with a little Parmesan or even Mexican Oaxaca for something exotic and tasty.
- Put the plate back under the broiler to melt the cheese. Leave it in there until the cheese develops a golden brown crust for best results. By the time you take it out the pasta sauce will be warm and the dish is ready to eat. All in under 30 minutes.
Australians & Brits
In America, the thing in the stove that we call a griller and use to make grilled cheese on toast sandwiches, is called a broiler. Also, when they say Barbecue or Barbque or BBQ they mean a style of cooking, not an actual BBQ. When they mean a BBQ cooker they say grill. I think they do it to confuse us. It's working.
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Fast Doesn't Mean Bad
Fast cooking does not mean bad meals or even unhealthy food, for example, famed chef Mario Batali produces an excellent pasta sauce that will really go a long way to elevating this meal but you could also use any kind of pasta sauce you like.
Kraft Mac n' Cheese - I recommend this product because it does not require you to cook the noodles and make the sauce separately, you just pop it in the microwave and go. Aside from the convenience, it is also great for making other dishes that will be included in this series. And let us not forget that it just tastes great on it's own, the ultimate comfort food.
Breaded Chicken Tenders - just about any breaded, chicken tender will work with this recipe because the flavor really comes from the cheese and the pasta sauce.
Great Pasta Sauce
Making It Healthier
Both my wife and I love this meal and chicken parmigiana often appears on lists of most romantic date meals and meals to make your partner on Valentines Day because there is something almost sensual about it.
Having said that, it is macaroni and cheese and more cheese so there are definitely ways to both improve the taste and the healthiness of this meal. Here are a few of the best ways to improve this meal and you will develop your cooking skills as you go.
Add Zucchini - Roasted Zucchini enhances the flavor of almost any pasta meal but it works particularly well with this meal. Just slice the zucchini into circles about half as thick as a pencil. You can leave the skin on or not, it is up to you. The easiest way to cook the zucchini is under the broiler since you will already be using it anyway. Dust each piece with a little salt and pepper or, even better, a little salt and smoked paprika and then pop it under the grill to cook until it becomes tender.
Add Tomatoes - I love tomatoes and they work particularly well with Italian dishes so slice a tomato into rings, as thick as you like and garnish them with a little salt and pepper. Again, paprika works as a great substitute for pepper so feel free to douse that on. Place the tomato rings on top of the cheese and keep it under the broiler until it the tomatoes get a little color on them. If you want to hit them with a little diced garlic or garlic salt before you put them under the broiler, that is a fantastic option too.
Chicken Parmigiana Sandwich
30 Minute Meals
2 Meals in 1
The other great thing about Chicken Parmigiana is that you get two meals out of it because you can also turn it into a sandwich too if you want. Get a good quality roll or bun and you have a great lunch for the next day. Add some fresh spinach and some onions and, if you're my wife, smear the bread with cream cheese. Personally I like to fry the bread in a little garlic oil or butter.
This sandwich even tastes pretty good cold so it is a good option for kid's lunches too.
The Vegetarian Version
You can very easily make a delicious, vegetarian version of this dish my using vegetable patties like the zucchini patties you can find in Safeway's frozen foods section. You just heat them up a little in the microwave and then either put them under the broiler or crisp them up a little in a non-stick saucepan and viola!