One of the greatest joys and frustrations of cooking and eating at home is that it’s not the same as dining at a restaurant. On the one hand, you can make your food exactly how you want, save money, control the ingredients and even improve on what you might get when dining out. On the other hand, most of us don’t have the time, equipment and staff at our fingertips to execute a restaurant-style dish we may particularly love.
As someone who has studied and worked with a number of chef recipes, I can tell you that they are not always the easiest to translate for a home cook and kitchen. But when it came time to find a great recipe for chicken Parm, we all immediately thought of the rendition being churned out by chef Michael Schlow and his team at Alta Strada, which has two locations in the Washington area.
This Spicy Chicken Parm eschews the chicken drowning in sauce and slick with cheese in favor of individually topped crispy cutlets, which makes it easy to dish up portions to each person, as well as slide one onto a pile of pasta or greens or — you know it — into a sub roll for a superlative sandwich. Adding crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce further elevates the light, bright sauce. (Feel free to adjust or eliminate to suit your taste.)
Schlow was generous enough to share the recipe with me. Save for a few small tweaks, mostly aimed at making it more friendly for home cooks (how many of us are going to pop our chicken into a deep fryer?), this recipe is true to the spirit of what you would find on Alta Strada’s Italian American menu.
Before you get started, here is a quick rundown of some helpful tips:
- You can cut back on the day-of prep by making the sauce as much as one week in advance.
- A small cast-iron skillet is great for pounding the chicken if you don’t have a meat mallet.
- We liked the combination of regular and panko bread crumbs for the breading, which makes for a crispy-but-not-too-crunchy coating. It’s fine to use only one type if that’s what you have.
- If you prefer the casserole experience, try doubling the sauce, adding to a baking dish and nestling the finished chicken in it. Top with the cheese and broil or bake to melt.
This is not the kind of dish most of us will throw together on a weeknight. Perhaps that’s for the best, because it is one you are going to want to savor with a glass of wine and, ideally, a few of your favorite people. You won’t miss the restaurant experience much — except maybe having someone else to do the dishes.
Individually saucing the cutlets and finishing them under a hot broiler offers several benefits. They’re simpler to serve to each person and can easily be placed on a bed of greens or atop spaghetti. Slide the cutlet onto a hearty roll for a chicken Parm sandwich? Absolutely. The cutlets are cooked in batches and assembled on a baking sheet, so this recipe can be easily scaled up to feed a crowd.