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At the beginning of the season, I mentioned how autumn is the perfect time of the year to bake things. Since then, I have incorporated baking into my cooking repertoire more than usual. A little while back, I made the perfect bisquick chicken. It was perfectly baked and crisp on the outside and still juicy, yet cooked through on the inside. The parmesan chicken melts were the same way. While baking was only one of the steps, I didn’t hesitate to use the oven like I so often do in the summer. In fact, I cranked the heat up and enjoyed the warmth it brought to the house. 

The thing about these parmesan chicken melts (that’s what I’ve dubbed them) is that I happened across them on the social media website Tumblr a while ago. The post was in under the tags for food photography and they looked delicious. A click of the picture brought me to E is for Eat and while looking at the recipe, I was intimidated. I don’t oven oven fry chicken, to be honest. Heck, I don’t much care for baking chicken breasts to incorporate them into the larger picture of things. It could be due to the fact that I’m weary about overcooking the chicken and having it taste terrible, or maybe it’s because I’m afraid to venture out of my niche (or a combination of the two), but the fact remains, I wrinkled my nose. While they looked delicious, I thought that if I was to ever make these, it would have to be a miracle or something.

Funny thing about miracles, they tend to happen from time to time.

Friday afternoon I was with Josh. His afternoon class had been cancelled and he mentioned that I had time to do some “serious” cooking. I looked into the cupboard and found nothing that really popped out at me. A jar of tomato sauce, some vienna sausages (which are great in rice), the box of bisquick from a previous endeavour… but nothing that really seemed to work. It was while I was poking around in the fridge that I had the idea. There was shredded “Italian blend” shredded cheese and whole wheat bread. Why not make a chicken parmesan melt?

The chicken, like always, was in the freezer. But I only needed a couple pieces to thaw so it didn’t take long to fully gather the ingredients for this inspired lunch.

Sometimes, you have to use what’s on hand, and that’s perfectly acceptable-
Back, left to right: bisquick, tomato sauce (it’s sugar free), parmesan cheese
Front: thawed chicken breasts, “Italian blend” shredded cheese, whole wheat bread

After the chicken was thawed, I dabbed it dry and got my hands a little dirty breading it. I wanted the chicken to stay moist while I baked it because I’d be cooking it again when it went into the melt, so I went the usual route. I grabbed some mayo from the jar in the fridge and went to town.

The mayo helped the flour (and in turn, the breadcrumbs) stick to the chicken. I prefer it over an egg wash, though I am open to breading chicken that way.

When I said “sometimes you have to use what you have on hand” I meant it. We had bisquick and not flour, so that was the road I went down. Unfortunately, the coating on the breast farthest left in the picture above was a little bit… gummy.

As an after thought, it struck me to roll the chicken in breadcrumbs. All of the chicken parmesan I’ve had has been rolled in breadcrumbs. Luckily, we had some.

During the whole process (which took longer than expected) the oven had been heating to 400 degrees and so by the time I was finished, I was able to get the chicken into the oven.

During the twenty minutes that the chicken cooked, I washed dishes (you’d be surprised at how many the above process used) and otherwise tidied up the kitchen, making less work for myself later on.

Twenty minutes later….

While the chicken cooled, I got a pan of sauce on the burner and waited for it to get a little bit bubbly.

Once the sauce was bubbly, I nestled the chicken down into the pan, reduced the heat and put a lid on it.

While the chicken soaked up the sauce, I buttered bread and admittedly had a bit of fun playing with the food (the picture below is of the prebuttered bread)With the bread buttered, I realised a problem. The stove I was working with only had 1 working large burner (makes it such a pain to cook something that requires multiple burners, like this), but the gods seemed to be smiling down upon me, because when I transferred the sauce to the wonky burner, it was working. Digression aside, I then got a skillet from the cabinet and aimed to perfect my grilled cheese/melt making.

I started by making sure the burner was warm enough. I can’t even begin to tell you how often I encounter awful grilled cheese (that I’ve made) because the pan wasn’t hot enough before I added the bread.

I started out by layering cheese and chicken on the bread…

…Followed by some more cheese…

… And then some more bread.

Remember when I said miracles were happening that afternoon? It didn’t stop at the fact that I was cooking this. It carried over into when I was flipping the sandwich in the pan. It didn’t fall apart like it usually did and you can’t even comprehend how thankful I was for that while I repeated the process.

Though I had cooked for chicken breasts, I only used three in sandwiches so that Josh’s mum could do with hers as she pleased. After all, a cold chicken parmesan melt can’t be that good, right?

While eating, Josh and I didn’t hold much of a conversation. Though we ate in silence, my mind was going a million miles an hour. I was content with lunch, but like always I was asking myself what I could have done better.

When Josh finished eating, he looked at me and told me that had I used a fancier bread (think sourdough), this would be something to serve in a restaurant. His only qualm was that there would have been more sauce on the sandwich and not on the side. While I was pleased, I still continued to think it over.

Yes, the whole wheat bread stood up bread to the chicken, cheese and sauce, but sourdough would have been better. On that note, maybe next time it would be better to just roll the chicken in breadcrumbs and not flour, too. What about baking the chicken with cheese on top? The thoughts were endless. But just because I was thinking of ways to better it, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t satisfied. They were delicious and filling.

~An On Hand Recipe: Chicken Parmesan Melts~

I may have gleaned inspiration for these from E is for Eat, but these were entirely my own because I was using what I had on hand and doing things differently than the author of that post did. 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts (if they’re thick, butterfly them so they’ll cook more evenly)
  • 8 pieces of bread (your preference, though I recommend sourdough)
  • 1/2 jar tomato sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (your preference)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1 cup of flour (or bisquick)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • butter

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 400.
  2. Get a glob of mayo from the jar and coat your hands in it*. Proceed to coat the chicken in mayo this way. Set aside on a plate and wash your hands.
  3. Find two shallow dishes big enough to put your flour and breadcrumbs into. In one dish, incorporate the parmesan cheese and flour/bisquick until well mixed. In the other, put the breadcrumbs.
  4. Roll the chicken in the flour/bisquick and cheese mix until lightly coated, tapping any excess off.
  5. Coat the chicken in the breadcrumbs until coated, again tapping off the excess.
  6. Repeat steps 4&5 until all of the chicken is coated.
  7. Bake chicken at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the juices run clear.
  8. Remove the chicken from the oven and set aside.
  9. In a deep bottomed medium sized pan, heat sauce over medium heat until bubbly. When the sauce is bubbling gently, incorporate the chicken, reduce the heat and put a lid on it.
  10. While the chicken and sauce marry, on a separate burner, get a pan big enough for the grilled cheese over medium heat. While the pan is warming up, butter the bread.
  11. When all of the bread has been buttered, proceed to make the sandwich like you would any grilled cheese. Place the bread, butter side down in the skillet. Wait a couple minutes, add the cheese, layer the chicken, add more cheese and then the other piece of bread butter side up. Carefully flip the sandwich and cook until melty.
  12. Repeat until all of the bread and cheese have been used.
  13. Allow the sandwiches to cool slightly before eating and enjoy!

Xx Steffanni

~Author’s Notes~

*It sounds disgusting and you’ll have mayo squishing between your fingers, but some of the best food comes from getting your hands dirty. Seriously.

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