Pepper Jack Chicken Parmigiana
So you may or may not have noticed that last week I took an unexpected hiatus from blog-posting. I could say that I was doing something impressive, like fighting bears with my "bear" hands (hah, catch that crappy pun? You're welcome), or meeting with heads of state or global ambassadors, or something else equally impressive.
The reality is far less awe-inspiring. It involves the fact that: 1) I am a book addict, and 2) I am in the throes of my senior writing project. Now, these two things may seem rather unrelated to blog-posting, so let me explain for a moment.
Firstly, there is this small matter: I am a book addict. When I am reading a book that I enjoy, I do not hear the people around me when they talk to me. I do not see them. Unless forced, I do not stop to sleep or talk or drink or eat until the book is done (except I write a food blog, so we all know that last one is untrue. I eat always and forever!). It had been far, far too long since I had read a book for fun, and the withdrawals hit me all at once. I spent an hour and a half in Barnes & Noble over Easter weekend (I would have spent longer but the store closed and they kicked me out) and came out of that experience eight books richer. So last Thursday night at 10:40pm, I somehow decided it would be a great idea to just crack open one of my new books and read a few pages before bedtime.
Long story short, I read that bad boy cover to cover in one sitting, only stopping once to brush my teeth and get ready for bed in a last ditch effort to convince myself to stop reading and go to sleep. All I succeeded in doing was moving from the couch to my bed, where I continued reading until 5:00am. Then I went to sleep, and (shocker), when I woke up, the last thing I felt like doing was trying to communicate effectively via the written word. Or at all, actually. (I know, I know, I'm a wild college kid. Who stays up until 5:00am reading for fun? Yeah, that would be me. Whoops.).
The other thing is that I am in the throes of my senior writing project (which is the college thesis project for writing concentration English majors). Just last night, I finished the rough draft of the novella portion of my project, which (as of now) is a grand total of 60 pages, or 17,545 words, or 76,728 characters. Excuse my language, but I feel it's relevant: hot damn.
I have been working on this project for the past couple of months straight, and while I love the direction it's taken and what it's become, it has caused me to become a little burnt out with writing at times. This burnt-out feeling hit at the same time as the I-desperately-need-to-read-for-fun feeling last Thursday, and so Friday rolled around sans blog post and I didn't argue with it.
But never fear: this week I'm back, and I've brought a delicious friend with me.
Whenever I go to Olive Garden, I tend to order the same thing: breadsticks (Duh. Best breadsticks ever, am I right?!), chicken and gnocchi soup, and chicken parmigiana. There's something just so satisfying about breadcrumb-crusted, pan-fried chicken breast with melted cheese oozing over the top, all over a bed of al dente pasta and drowning in hearty red sauce. It's difficult to order anything else when the idea of chicken parmigiana crosses your mind and your menu.
So I decided to make my own version with a spicy twist, and came up with this Pepper Jack Chicken Parmigiana recipe. Pepper jack is my favorite type of sliced cheese, and the little flecks of spices and herbs in the cheese really elevate the flavor of the chicken parmigiana and make it even more irresistible.
Not that you need any more incentive, but this recipe also comes together in just over half an hour, is oh-so simple to make, and oh-so filling to eat. It doesn't require any sort of fancy or difficult to find ingredients, and many of them are things you might already have in your pantry.
So if you need something filling, flavorful, and comfort-food-chic with a tad of sexy spice, I introduce my bud Pepper Jack Chicken Parmigiana.
'Sup, Jack. Welcome to The Sagas.
Pepper Jack Chicken Parmigiana
Makes: 4 servings
Takes: 35 minutes
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce (my favorite: Emeril's Roasted Gaaahlic Sauce)
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Basil (dried or fresh)
- Oregano (dried or fresh)
- Salt and black pepper
- Olive oil
- 4 thin chicken breasts
- 4 slices pepper jack cheese
- 1 box long noodles
- Fresh parsley (optional)
- Shredded parmesan (optional)
- Pour spaghetti sauce into saucepan on stove. Sprinkle in crushed red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, salt, black pepper, and a swirl of olive oil.
- Heat sauce slowly on low heat while you work on the rest of the meal, stirring sauce occasionally.
- Coat bottom of skillet with about 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil. Heat on medium heat.
- If possible, purchase thin chicken breasts. If you buy thick, pound them until they are thin. Then, season both sides of each breast with salt and pepper. Coat both sides with breadcrumbs.
- Preheat over to 225˚F.
- Place chicken breasts in skillet, cooking two at a time. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until crust is golden and chicken is up to a safe temperature. Note: To avoid olive oil splatter (both mess and burns), cover skillet while chicken cooks.
- During the last minute, take one slice of pepper jack cheese per breast. Tear in half and lay lengthwise on the chicken to melt, covering entire breast.
- Line oven-safe pan with foil. Put first two chicken breasts in and cover pan with foil. Place in oven, and turn oven off (the preheating was just to keep the chicken warm, not continue to cook it).
- Put the next two chicken breasts in the skillet, adding more olive oil if needed. Repeat Chapters 6-8.
- As the chicken breasts cook, put pot with salted water on stove and bring to a boil. Break long pasta noodles of choice in half, and put them in the water. Cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain.
- Scoop pasta onto plate. Spoon sauce over. Place chicken on top, and drizzle another spoonful of sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle on fresh parsley and parmesan, if desired.