Northern Italy meets southern Italy in this secondo piatto dish. However, the oven baked chicken fillet in a Parmesan crust did not originate in Italy at all, but in New York. Italian immigrants brought their diverse cooking traditions with them. And many a new recipe travelled back to the former homeland.
The first emigration wave began after the unification of Italy in 1861. Hundreds of thousands of Italians, mostly from the poorer south, left their country in the decades that followed. Hopes for a better economic future took many to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Sicilians, Neapolitans and families from Calabria, as well as Genoese, Milanese and other northern Italians, shaped the streets of "Little Italy" with their respective dialects, customs and special dishes. A walk through the neighbourhood was like a trip through Italy.
New York is considered a melting pot of nations and cultures. The cuisine in Little Italy was no exception. It was here that oven baked chicken fillet in a Parmesan crust was first served: influences from Milan – breaded cutlets – met the Neapolitan penchant for topping more than just pizza bread with tomato sauce and cheese. The recipe was a hit. Soon, it was being used to top sandwiches or hearty pies outside of Little Italy. And Italian restaurants began organising competitions for the perfect Parmesan-crusted chicken fillet.
Chicken fillet in Parmesan crust
- 200 g tomato sauce
- olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ onion
- 4 chicken fillets, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 eggs
- 200 g Parmesan, grated
- oil, for frying
- 50 g Provola cheese
- For the tomato sauce, peel the garlic and finely chop the onion. Fry the garlic and onion in plenty of olive oil until golden brown. Add the tomato sauce, stir gently and simmer until chicken is cooked. Pre-heat the oven to 180° C.
- For the breaded chicken, put the flour, eggs and Parmesan on three different plates. Add a little salt to the eggs and beat them with a fork. Turn the fillets first in the flour, then in the eggs and finally in the Parmesan. Fry the fillets in hot oil until golden brown on both sides. Then dab off any excess fat with kitchen paper.
- Place the fillets in an ovenproof dish. Cover with the tomato sauce and slices of Provola cheese and bake in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese has melted.