There’s a whole lot to love about chicken Parmesan—juicy chicken, rich cheesy flavor, zippy tomato sauce—but it’s also a dish that seems to defy logic. Recipes typically call for the chicken cutlets to be shallow-fried but then doused in sauce, a process that more often than not results in a flooded, flabby crust. What good is it to take the time to create a crisp crust if it’s to turn soggy as soon as it’s sauced?
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This was the question on the mind of my colleague Andrea Geary when she set out to develop her chicken Parmesan recipe. After frying countless cutlets, she identified a key issue with each component of chicken Parm that contributes to the sogginess problem:
- The crust: The bread crumbs traditionally used to coat the cutlets are starch, and starch readily absorbs liquid and turns soft.
- The sauce: Completely covering the crusted cutlets in sauce exposes the most crust to the most liquid.
- The cheese: Waiting around for the cheese to melt in the oven gives the sauce plenty of time to saturate and soften the crust.
One by one, Andrea addressed these issues, and now you can use her discoveries to improve your own version of the dish. Here are three ways to waterproof your chicken Parmesan.
- Make a less-absorbent crust: Instead of a crust made entirely of breadcrumbs, use just ½ cup breadcrumbs to ¾ cup Parmesan cheese. The cheese contains no starch and makes the crust significantly more moisture-proof.
- Make a thicker sauce and use less of it: Cook the sauce longer to reduce water and make it thicker. Put just a small amount on the cutlet, and serve the rest at the table.
- Switch the position of the sauce and the cheese: Instead of spooning sauce directly onto the cutlet and then adding the cheese (we use a mixture of shredded mozzarella and Fontina) on top of that, put the cheese on first. Once it melts, it forms a waterproof barrier that protects the cutlet from the sauce.
Try Andrea’s discoveries, and you’ll find that sogginess in chicken Parmesan is banished for good.