Cheap and Good: Eggplant Chicken Parmesan
What do you do when you have eggplant that need to be used and chicken also waiting in the wings (poor pun)? You make Eggplant Chicken Parmesan. It's easy, inexpensive, and nutritious as well as tasty. I use Chinese/Japanese eggplants for the dish, as they need no peeling. A quick zap in the microwave takes care of the extra moisture in the eggplant and shortens the preparation/cooking time. Chicken cutlets--the thin-sliced breasts--are best for the recipe. I make my own with "on sale" large chicken breasts. If you really want to shorten prep time, you can prepare the chicken in advance--slicing it, flouring it, sauteing it, and then stashing it in the refrigerator for later use. I do this routinely, and I use the cutlets in multiple different dishes, hoping no one will notice that "we're having chicken again!" This really is a good main dish with all the flavors of eggplant Parmesan and chicken Parmesan rolled into one. Serve the dish with a side of pasta and a salad for a complete, filling meal.
Eggplant Chicken Parmesan -- Serves 4+
2-3 long, thin Chinese/Japanese eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds
16 ounces of thinly sliced chicken cutlets (4-6 cutlets, each about 1/2-inch thick)
1-2 tablespoons of flour
1-2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 15-16-ounce can of Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1/2 cup of chopped onion
1 teaspoon of Italian herbs
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 cup of seasoned Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of shredded Italian-style cheese
Spritz a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the eggplant slices in a single layer on a paper-towel lined plate, sprinkle them with a little salt if you like (or don't, if you're watching your sodium) cover them with another paper towel, and microwave them for 3-5 minutes until they soften and release much of their moisture. Transfer the eggplant to the prepared dish. Heat the oil until shimmering over medium-high heat in a large skillet or chef's pan. Dust the chicken cutlets with flour and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Place the cutlets in the pan (don't crowd them--if they won't all fit, cook them in batches) and brown them for 3-4 minutes. Flip the cutlets and brown the other side for 3-4 more minutes (don't worry if they aren't completely cooked, because they'll also cook in the oven). While you're browning the chicken, place the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chopped onion, Italian herbs, the pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a microwavable bowl or measure (a quart Pyrex measure works well) and microwave the mixture for 4-5 minutes, stirring it mid-way through. Pour half of the sauce over the eggplant in the casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the panko over the sauce covering the eggplant, then sprinkle on 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. When the chicken cutlets are browned, place them on top of the Parmesan covering the eggplant in the casserole dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the chicken cutlets. Sprinkle the cup of Italian-style shredded cheese over the cutlets, then the remaining panko, then the remaining Parmesan cheese. Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake the Eggplant Chicken Parmesan for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly. Let the Eggplant Chicken Parmesan cool for 5-10 minutes before serving it.