Make your own chicken parmo at home
Let’s get one thing straight. A formed chicken escalope, topped with cheese might taste okay but it is NOT a parmo. What’s more, if a recipe uses tomato sauce instead of bechamel, then that’s not a parmo either. It’s a parmigiana, parm, parmi or parma (depending on whether it’s Italian, American or Australian). That’s right, our friends down under have a similar obsession with this dish but they’ve never tried switching out the red sauce for the white – that is something unique to my native Teesside.
Parmos can be made with any flattened meat fillet. Pork is seen as the traditional option but most people these days seem to prefer chicken. The meat is flattened and breadcrumbed to make a schnitzel which is then cooked and topped with bechamel sauce and melted cheese. Methods vary but as a general rule of thumb, the cheese shouldn’t release too much oil when melted, the bechamel should be creamy and silky smooth and the chicken should be moist and not beaten too thinly.
Try to buy better quality chicken too because it really does make a difference. The same goes for the cheese – try to find independently produced mature Cheddar or red Leicester.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
4 x chicken fillets
60g Plain flour
1 x egg (beaten)
Sunflower oil (for frying)
150g Mature Red Leicester or coloured Cheddar (grated)
For the béchamel
Tablespoon of sunflower oil
60g plain flour (or more depending on strength of the flour)
400ml milk (add gradually and stop when sauce reaches desired consistency)
1 x egg yolk (optional)
First things first. Make sure you take the meat out of the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature (half an hour or so). Then start by making the bechamel:
- Melt 50g butter. Allow to darken slightly to bring out the nutty flavour but ensure it doesn’t start to burn
- Gradually sift in the flour over a medium heat, stirring constantly
- Once it’s all added, the mixture should resemble a thick paste and should come away from the sides of the pan as you stir
- Cook like this over a medium heat for up to 3-4 minutes (or as long as you dare – if it burns, you’ll have to start again)
- Gradually add the milk, stirring all the time
- Once enough has been added, leave on a medium heat for another 5-10 mins, ensuring that it doesn’t boil or over reduce
- Remove from the heat and stir in an egg yolk for added richness (optional). Make sure it doesn’t scramble though!
- The sauce should now be nicely thickened so you can season to taste
- Put it to one side and cover with baking parchment to avoid a skin forming
For any Australians who might be reading and wondering what’s with the bechamel, please refer back to the introduction.
Now for the meat:
- Remove any excess fat and butterfly the chicken
- Place on a chopping board under a sheet of cling film/parchment
- Bash each fillet out with a tenderising mallet (or rolling pin) until they are around half an inch thick
- Dredge the meat – first into the flour, then egg, then the panko. Ensure that the coating is even all over then set aside on a cooling rack
- Pour roughly 1/3 bottle of sunflower oil into a wok or very deep frying pan and turn onto high heat (if you’ve got a deep fryer get it out of the box, blow off the dust and set for 170c)
- When the oil is sizzling hot, add the first fillet. Cook for around 3 minutes on each side, then remove, set aside and repeat with the other pieces. If you have a larger fryer, you can cook more at once but overloading the oil reduces the temperature too much and will make the escallops too greasy
- Place the chicken pieces into a preheated oven at 200C for five minutes to finish them off
- Cover the top of both fillets with bechamel sauce and glaze in the oven or under the a hot grill until bubbling
- Sprinkle on the grated cheese and place back on heat till melted
- Add a grind of pepper to finish and serve with triple cooked chips and salad or slaw.
Traditionally parmos are accompanied by garlic or chilli sauce. Ketchup is frowned upon ;).
If you want to try a parmo but all this seems like too much work, keep an eye out for ParmStar. In 2015 we took the parmo national, popping up at street food events and festivals up and down the country. This year, our parmo plate won Best Main Dish at the British Street Food Awards, judged by a panel of top chefs. We on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as @ParmStarUK.