This might look complicated to make, but it isn’t really and it's a favorite at our house. The most time consuming part is slicing the raw chicken into scallops (your butcher may do this for you) and, chopping the cheese and breadcrumbs in a food processor. Both of these steps can be done well in advance.
Once finished, the dish can easily be reheated in a 350-400°F oven (you might want to cover it to prevent cheese from burning). Usually the “2nd pan” is the next night’s dinner. I would assume it would freeze okay – but I haven’t tried it. For 4-6 servings, use 3 chicken breasts.
4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts* sliced horizontally into 8 pieces (scallops)
½ pound of grateable cheese like Parmigiana Reggiano**
2 - 16oz of Jars of Tomato/Spaghetti Sauce**
2 eggs beaten
6-8oz of crushed croutons or seasoned breadcrumbs
12-16oz of Mozzarella in brine (preferably Buffalo) – hand shredded into bits
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Puree grating cheese and croutons/bread crumbs in food processor until very coarse crumbs result. The mixture should press together in your hand and hold it’s shape. If it’s too dry add a bit of olive oil and process again. The mixture should just be a bit moist not soggy.
Set up two bowls and a plate, one with the beaten egg and one with the cheese mixture. Dip each chicken piece into the egg and then into the cheese mixture pressing it into both sides and very gently shaking off any excess – pile these “done” pieces on a plate. If you have leftover egg/cheese mixture you can bread the chicken tenders and later tuck them in between the larger pieces.
Pour tomato sauce into an oven-proof pan or casserole – I use an Apilco Deep Oval Baking Dish (which I adore).*** You may need to split the 8 pieces between 2 dishes – this is fine – but split the sauce too.
Heat olive oil (about 1/4c) in a large sauté pan or frying pan over high heat. Add the coated chicken pieces. You can cook it in batches. Turn chicken over when edge starts to turn white. The crust should be golden brown.
Lay the brown pieces on top of the sauce pressing them in slightly. Tuck the tenders in between. Top with the shredded mozzarella. Place in pre-heated oven for about 30-35 minutes or until cheese is golden and sauce bubbles around the edges. The chicken should read greater than 170°F.
* I encourage you to buy bone-in breasts or a whole chicken and debone and scallop the breasts and save the rest for stock – or ask your butcher to do it for you.
** I use the ends of hard cheeses which are around - I take off the rind and trim them then pop the into the food processor. A couple of different types gives the dish even more flavor - but I suggest you only use firm drier style cheeses.
*** You can get the Apilco Deep Oval Bakers dish at CHEF'S catalog online: CHEF'S Sale
I also you suggest that you choose two different kinds of sauces as it gives the dish even greater dimension or use homemade sauce! In this recipe I used a slightly acidic tomato-based herb sauce and a creamy, chunkier style sauce.