Pounded chicken breasts are lavished with freshly grated Parmesan, crunchy panko crumbs, fresh tomato sauce and oozy smoked mozzarella.
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (remove the tenders and use them in another recipe, like chicken fingers with some extra panko)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 cups panko crumbs (crunchy Japanese breadcrumbs)
3 large eggs, beaten, with a pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 cup Simple Tomato Sauce (see below) or store-bought sauce
1/2 lb. smoked mozzarella, cut into 6 slices (may substitute smoked Gouda)
Simple Tomato Sauce
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 19-oz.can chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
Step 1: Place chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and, with a meat mallet or the side of a rolling pin, pound them until they're about 1⁄4" thick. (You could also ask your nice butcher to do this for you.)
Step 2: Spread grated Parmesan and panko crumbs on 2 separate pieces of foil (or large plates). Have the seasoned and beaten eggs standing by, too. Working one at a time, first coat a chicken breast with the Parmesan, pressing it into the meat, then dip into the egg, then press into the panko crumbs. Repeat until all breasts are coated, then place on a tray in the fridge, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Step 3: Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add 3 breasts at a time. Cook, turning once, until they're nice and golden (about 2-3 minutes on each side). Drain on paper towel, then transfer to a foil-lined cookie sheet. Top each breast with a few tablespoons of Simple Tomato Sauce and a slice of smoked mozzarella. Bake until chicken is cooked through and cheese is bubbly and melted, about 10-15 minutes.
Simple Tomato Sauce
Step 1: In a large saucepan, gently fry the smashed garlic cloves in oil. When garlic is soft and golden brown, discard the cloves, lower heat and slowly add the can of tomatoes (careful, they might splatter), sugar, bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste.
Step 2: Partially cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often, until sauce thickens. Stir in fresh parsley and basil at the end and remove bay leaves before using.