Over the River and Through the Woods

Allegheny County in red

Allegheny County in red

My family and I went west–way, way west for the post-Thanksgiving weekend. New York State is bigger than I realized especially “upstate,” which seems composed of small churches, farms and roadways with impressively little travel. The drive is easy, as it’s relatively uncomplicated but dull as you’re mostly on major highways for the (theoretically) five-plus hours. Italian highways are dotted with gas stations that have unexpectedly good food spots attached; these roads, not so much.

At the Wellsville, NY YM/WCA, we had a riotous time in a Zumba-esque aerobics-cum-calisthenics class led by the daughter of our host.

This is SO not the family

This is SO not the family

The following day we visited Willow Creek, an organic dairy farm. I have always been fond of cows (don’t ask); these live a cow one-percenter life (until they no longer give “sufficient” milk at which point they get demoted to pet food). The cows can graze outdoors and get milked on their own schedule. The entire operation is automatic. Cows get a grain treat while being milked so they form a  line that is far less unpleasant than human behavior on Black Friday. There are a gazillion cats living in the barn as companions and, um, pest control.

Calf (note "designer" blanket with cat friend

Calf (note “designer” blanket with cat friend

Classical music is piped into the barn for cow appreciation. Cows near their delivery date are in special areas and filmed via cow-cam so the farmer can turn up when needed and not waste time waiting. It’s all ideal if the idea of dairy farming appeals to you.

All those cows means a non-beef recipe. Do not be put off by the ingredients or what looks like Julia Child-ish number of steps. This chicken Parmesan n recipe is a cinch, especially as it can be done in parts with the final steps taken before you serve it.

Chicken Parmesan


4  skinless, boneless halved chicken breasts. ( I added  4 skinless boneless thighs which I find tastier. Rest of amounts I kept pretty much the same. )
salt and pepper
2 eggs (or 3 if you have a lot of chicken)
Panko bread crumbs
Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 Tbl flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (to coat chicken)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (to sprinkle on before baking)
1/2 cup tomato sauce (or jar of good store brand)
1.2 c mozzarella cut into cubes
olive oil
1/2 cup grated Provolone cheese (if you omit it won’t make the slightest difference)

1. Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F .
2. Place chicken breasts between two sheets of heavy plastic (resealable freezer bags work well) on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound chicken with the smooth side of a meat mallet to a thickness of 1/2-inch. Season chicken thoroughly with salt and pepper.
3. Beat eggs in a shallow bowl and set aside.
4. Mix bread crumbs and 1/2 cup Parmesan in a separate bowl, set aside. (I used part Panko and part Italian and added dried parsley -fresh even better–and oregano)
5. Place flour in a sifter or strainer; sprinkle over chicken breasts, evenly coating both sides.
6 .Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Cook chicken until golden, about 2 minutes on each side. The chicken will finish cooking in the oven.
7. Put chicken in a baking dish. This is where you can stop, cover dish with foil and resume next day. I’d take dish out a few hours before to bring it to room temperature and then move on.
8. Top chicken with about 1/3 cup of tomato sauce (or a whole jar of bought). Layer chicken with equal amounts of mozzarella and provolone cheese (if using) Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese on top and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
9. Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is browned and bubbly and chicken breasts are not pink in the center, 15 to 20 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the thickest piece should read at least 165 degrees F.
If you’re a stickler, you could serve with angel-hair or other pasta. If not, a salad and/or green veg and you’re home free.

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4 Responses to Over the River and Through the Woods

  1. Bob Mack says:

    Atmospheric jaunt into Western New York State, told well by you. Like you, I am drawn to cows ever since I went to Brownwood, Texas, and fed a few with my late wife’s Uncle Runt (he was 6′ 4” tall). Also, that recipe looks like even I could accomplish it.

  2. Peter Sour says:

    What a lovely description of farm country and a delish dish, to boot.
    The farm reminds me of dairy farms I worked at, some 50 years ago The cameras must be a welcome addition.

  3. Natalie Miggins says:

    Love it Nan
    Love Natalie