Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Chicken Parmesan is one of our favorite comfort food meals. On a cold night, our tummies and brains are always pleased by a crispy, tender chicken cutlet covered with cheese and red sauce with a heaping pile of spaghetti, sautéed or roasted green veggie and glass of red on the side. Sounds fabulous, right?

One night, I decided to mix it up and make these chicken parmesan muffins instead. It’s basically a chicken meatloaf recipe baked in muffin tins. I was dubious – wouldn’t they be too dry? But they weren’t. And besides, if they were, I’d just smother them in more cheese and sauce.

I made a few changes to the original Chow recipe. I added red bell pepper to it and took the extra step of sautéing the pepper with the onion and garlic – in the original recipe, the onion and garlic are added raw to the muffin mixture. I also substituted basil pesto for fresh basil since I have a freezer full of pesto cubes. And I added fresh parsley and red pepper flakes to the mix for extra flavor.

According to Chow, the muffins will be drier and less flavorful if you use ground white-meat chicken. I took their advice. Luckily, my local supermarket sells ground dark-meat chicken from one of the national brands.

These muffins would be a good choice for a potluck feast. You could heat them up in the oven when you get there and serve some warm tomato sauce on the side. Now I’m wondering what they’d be like cooked in mini-muffin pans – an even better portion for a party. You could still try to smoosh a cube of mozzarella in them, but you’d have to keep an eye on them so they don’t overcook and dry out.

Chicken Parmesan Muffins recipe from Grabbing the Gusto

Chicken Parmesan Muffins

You’ll need a sheet pan, 6-well muffin pan, small sauté pan, large bowl and wire cooling rack.

  • Cooking spray or olive oil
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for sautéing
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/3 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 pounds ground dark-meat chicken
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto (or 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley (or 1/2 dried parsley)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 with a rack in the middle. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place a 6-well muffin pan on the pan and coat the muffin wells and the top of the muffin pan with cooking spray or olive oil to coat the pan.

Combine 1/3 cup of the panko, 1/3 cup of the Parmesan and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl until evenly moistened.

Sauté onion and red bell pepper in olive oil until starting to soften. Add garlic and sauté one minute. Take off heat and let cool.

Place the beaten egg in a large bowl. Add the remaining 1/3 cup panko and 1/3 cup Parmesan, chicken, pesto, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and onion/pepper mixture. Mix everything with your hands until it’s combined – take care not to squeeze or overwork the mixture or the muffins will be tough.

Divide the mixture among the wells of the muffin pan. Evenly divide the mozzarella pieces among the wells, pushing them into the center of the chicken mixture and enclosing them. Smooth out the tops of the “muffins.”

Optional – add some of the marinara to the tops of the muffins before baking.

Sprinkle the reserved panko-Parmesan mixture evenly over the tops of the meatloaf muffins and gently press to adhere.

Place the sheet pan with the muffin pan on it into the oven and bake until the muffins are cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the tomato or marinara sauce and keep it warm.

When the meatloaf muffins are done cooking, set the oven to broil and broil until the panko topping is golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Run a small knife around the outside of each muffin to loosen and remove it. Serve with the marinara sauce.

Original recipe: Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins, Chow

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