Chicken parm, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken, ziti and broccoli, oh my! These are the dishes you will often find on my table. I am a native Italian and I love to cook. But I have been living in the US for almost 33 years now, so I must confess, my kitchen is not always “authentic Italian,” and these dishes speak to that. My family’s taste buds and recipes have changed since moving here so long ago, and we’ve adapted to what is most readily available at the main grocery store.
And there is something to be said for really good, homemade, Italian-American cuisine. It’s not always about being authentic; sometimes it’s about preparing a delicious dinner for your family, and forget if something would be approved by a food historian. And good old comfort food like chicken parm fits that bill.
It’s uncertain where this recipe comes from, most likely from Italian immigrants, who brought with them their recipe for eggplant parm, and one day decided to use chicken instead. Unlikely the US, produce in Italy is and always has been relatively inexpensive. It’s actually cheaper to eat healthy in Italy than the US! If you have been to the grocery store lately, you’ll find that the price of produce compares to that of chicken and seafood! And while you would not find this on the menu at an Italian restaurant in Italy, you would certainly find it in an Italian restaurant here in the US.
This restaurant-style dish is worth the effort, especially during the weekend when you have just a bit more time. It’s actually not a lot of work. The sauce cooks while you prepare the other ingredients, and in under an hour, you have a delicious meal. Use the sauce to dress some pasta, and you have a two-course meal with no added effort!
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ small onion, diced
2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil
Salt to taste – about 1 teaspoon
1 28 oz can of crushed peeled tomatoes
1 cup water
4 – 6 chicken breast cutlets, thinly sliced to about 1/3 inch in thickness
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups Italian breadcrumbs
¾ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Vegetable oil for frying
½ lb sliced provolone cheese or ½ lb shredded mozzarella
Instructions for the sauce
Instructions for the cutlets
Because we now have the “major” holidays behind us, the retail shops are quick to tell us that Valentines Day is next. Truth be told, I was seeing merchandise for Valentines Day well before Christmas!
And what could be more romantic to bake for the most romantic day of the year than Baci di Dama, which translates to “Lady Kisses” in English? These diminutive sandwich cookies are a staple in the hazelnut-growing region of Piedmont. They are crunchy and melt-in-your mouth, all at once. Packed with a major hazelnut flavor, these tiny temptations are addictive. They are said to resemble two lips kissing, brought together by a hint of chocolate in the middle, hence their name. Call them what you will, they are certainly to become a favorite in your household.
For the chocolate, I prefer using baking chips instead of melting bar chocolate. Chocolate chips have emulsifiers, which when cooled, tend to solidify better than using a bar of chocolate. When looking at the ingredient doses, you might thing you will not never get 80 cookies out of this (40 sandwiched cookies), keep in mind, these are supposed to be pretty small. So you have an excuse to go on seconds and thirds.
Baci di Dama
Yields approximately 35 - 40 sandwich cookies
1 cup hazelnuts, (ideally toasted and skinned)
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces (chilled)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
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