Chicken parmesan is my family’s favorite meal, and I tackle the process like a woman obsessed. The ritual never varies: First, everyone must leave the kitchen. Then I tie on an apron and continue with the most important task: I open a bottle of red wine. The experience won’t be a success without that important step, and I am under pressure to produce another stellar recipe so who am I to alter the technique?
Then I assemble all the ingredients and take a sip of wine. For the sauce, I sauté fresh onions, red peppers, green peppers, and garlic in extra-virgin olive oil (imported from Italy, of course.) Then I add tomato sauce and let it simmer. The delightful aroma causes Studley to peek into the kitchen but I shoo him away and take another sip of wine.
Then I cut up fresh chicken, dip it in a raw egg mixture, roll it in Italian bread crumbs and shredded fresh parmesan cheese and brown the pieces in olive oil. It takes several pans to brown all the chicken, so I take a few more sips of wine while it cooks. By this time, spattered oil covers the stove, the counters, and my apron. The wine is getting better, so I really don’t care.
Then I spread the simmered sauce into casserole dishes followed by the chicken and layers of sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan cheese, and more sauce. I cover the pans with tin foil and slide them into an oven heated to 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Then I sit down to sip wine and ignore the mountain of dirty pans, greasy utensils, empty cheese containers, and spilled bread crumbs that make my kitchen resemble a bad day at an Italian mess hall. It’s usually cleaned up before midnight.
Chicken parmesan tastes better the next day after all the flavors have mingled and the dish has cooled and then reheated. For a splendid dinner, I serve it with more sauce, crusty bread, a vegetable dish, and a green salad. For some reason, the original bottle of wine usually is empty, but there will be another one. For a brief moment at dinner time, all is right with the world.