So living in the Chicagoland area, I am a big fan of our area eatery called Portillo’s. And as anyone living in my neck of the woods knows, they have some great grub! It is a hotdog/sandwich stand that knows how Chicagoans like their dogs and Italian Beef (No, not cheese steak or french dip….Italian Beef, Chicago style!) Anyway, at my particular Portillo’s they also have an Italian half of the restaurant called Barnelli’s and one thing I really like to order is their chicken parmesan sandwich. Covered in gooey mozzarella and tangy marinara sauce, it sits in a tasty focaccia roll and it is dynamite! But the problem is that I don’t like to go to restaurants a lot because all my kids want to order is hot dogs and french fries and I don’t like them eating french fries every day. (Ok, yeah, I go to Portillo’s a lot, because the food is just that good, but I can’t go All the time people!) So when I was craving a chicken parmesan sandwich the other day, I knew I would just have to make my own.
So I went to my cookbook collection and immediately knew that I wanted a recipe from Rachel Ray’s original 30 minute meals cookbook that I knew had a recipe for Zesty Chicken Cutlets Parmigiana. It was exactly what I needed. I only had to tweak it a bit to turn it into a tasty sandwich. Now the bread for this sandwich couldn’t be just ANY bread. Portillo’s makes theirs with a delicious tomato focaccia so I headed out to a great grocery store near my house called Mariano’s. They have a pretty decent bakery there so I knew I would find what I was looking for. Sure enough, they had a nice round loaf of tomato focaccia packaged and ready to go. I was ready to grab this loaf when nearby I noticed they were selling freshly prepared sandwiches, some on tomato focaccia. The only thing was that their focaccia was different than the one I was about to buy. I noticed that this focaccia they made the sandwiches with had chunkier tomatoes on it. Upon inquiring, the lady behind the counter verified that they were in fact different and that they only used the chunkier kind for preparing the sandwiches. I guess I looked pathetic enough, however that she reached behind the shelf and packaged up one of her great looking focaccia’s for me. (Don’t you like nice people!)
I am happy to report that my zesty chicken parmesan on this tasty, fresh tomato focaccia bread was quite simply fantastic! So if you don’t have a Portillo’s near you, number one, I am sorry. But secondly, I think this great sandwich recipe will make up for it, at least a little for you! 🙂
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 pinches of red pepper flakes
- 2 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 10 leaves of fresh basil, torn OR 2-3 pinches of dried basil
- 1 sprig of fresh oregano, chopped OR 2 pinches of dried oregano
- 1/4-1/2 c. lemon juice
- 1/3 c. shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 c. italian bread crumbs
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
- 3 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets (thin sliced chicken breasts)
- 1 pound fresh shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 -2 rounds of fresh tomato focaccia bread
- Fresh green leaf lettuce
- 1 pound of penne pasta
- First, prepare the sauce. Heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat in a medium pot until garlic is softened. Add tomatoes and herbs and bring to a bubble. Reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally.
- Next, prepare the chicken. Put lemon juice in a shallow bowl. On a large plate, mix parmesan cheese, bread crumbs,pepper and pepper flakes. Dip chicken in the lemon juice and then coat with bread crumb mixture.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken on each side for approximately 3-4 minutes per side. After finished frying, place a cup or two of the sauce in a large ovenproof serving dish and place chicken on top. Put some sauce on the top of each piece and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top. Place the platter under the broiler until cheese has melted and a slight crust has formed on the top.
- Slice the focaccia in half and split the top from the bottom so it forms a sandwich. Heat the bread in the microwave for 30 seconds or spread butter on the insides and sear it flat on a cast iron pan for a minute or so to make the inside crisp.
- Place a piece of green leaf lettuce on the inside and place a piece of chicken on top. Put some more sauce on top of the chicken before covering it with the top of the focaccia if desired.