I’ve mentioned before that, while I love all types and varieties of cuisines, Italian is my favorite. Hands down. I think I owe that to the DiBuduo family, who is basically my second family. We lived across the street from the DiBuduos for the entirety of my growing up. Their daughter was my best friend, our moms were best friends, our dads were best friends, you get the picture. I was in their home as much as I was my own, and that included many, many incredible, authentic Italian family dinners. Marilyn was my second mom, and I spent many hours on my tiptoes in her kitchen, trying to sneak a peek or “help” with whatever magic she was making. I actually believe that kitchen to be the first stepping stone in my culinary path. Marilyn instilled in me an appreciation for really, truly delicious food. I realized this only recently when we were at a party together. She asked my advice on a cooking matter and it stopped me in my tracks. I was so humbled and shocked by it that I’m not even sure my answer made any sense. I’m supposed to be the one asking her what sort of chicken to use in a salad! How funny life is sometimes.
While Marilyn makes a remarkable Chicken Parmesan, this version is my own. Like many of my dishes, it shames tradition a bit, slipping off the rails of authenticity. But, it is one of my very favorite things. It’s a dish that takes a little love and effort, and you can taste that in every single bite.
1/2 lb. spaghetti, cooked and combined with pasta sauce
6 T. bacon fat (or vegetable oil)
8 chicken tenderloins
2 c. mayonnaise
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1.5 c. panko bread crumbs
1 c. shredded parmesan cheese
4 slices mozzerella cheese, each slice cut in half
salt and pepper to taste
Set up dredging station by arranging two pans (or bowls, or plates, whatever suits your fancy! I use heart cake pans, because, why not?)
In the first pan, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper
In the second pan, combine panko, parmesan, salt and pepper
Pat chicken dry with paper towel, and season both sides with salt and pepper
Cover chicken tenderloins in mayonnaise mixture, followed immediately by panko mixture, set aside
*Note: I know that my mayo method may seem a bit strange to those who are used to a strictly “flour, egg, breadcrumb” method of dredging. Downright weird even. But I promise you, once you try this, you’ll never go back to the old way! It creates such a juicy, succulent piece of chicken (that doesn’t taste anything like mayonnaise). Trust me!
Fry chicken in bacon fat (or vegetable oil) until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side
While chicken is frying, set oven to broil
Carefully remove chicken from pan and set onto a sheet pan, topping with mozzarella slices, one half slice per piece
Broil for 1-2 minutes until mozzarella starts to brown and bubble
Serve over spaghetti, and top with pasta sauce. Enjoy!!