This recipe takes a few shortcuts, making it doable on a weeknight, yet tastes as good as the chicken parmesan from your favorite Italian restaurant.
Prep Time:25 Minutes
Cook Time:20 Minutes
Total Time:45 Minutes
2 poundschicken tenderloins
2 teaspoonssalt, divided
3/4 teaspoonsfreshly ground black pepper, divided
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoonsgrated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
1 teaspoondried oregano
1/2 teaspoondried thyme
3 large eggs
Olive oil, for cooking
1-1/2 cupshomemade or store-bought marinara sauce, best quality such as Rao's or Victoria
6 ozfontina, shredded (about 1-1/2 cups)
3 tablespoonsfresh chopped basil
Using kitchen shears, trim off any white tendons at the ends of the tenderloins. Using the palm of your hand, gently flatten the tenderloins so that they are an even 1/4-inch thickness. Season the chicken all over with 1-1/4 teaspoons of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.
In a large shallow bowl, combine the panko, 3/4 cup of the Parmigiano Reggiano, the oregano, the thyme, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix well, making sure there are no clumps of cheese.
Place the flour in another shallow bowl. Beat the eggs in a third bowl. Set up a breading station in this order: flour, eggs, panko. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easy clean up. Dredge the chicken in the flour, coating evenly; dip in the eggs, letting any excess drip off; then dredge in the panko mixture, turning and patting to adhere. Place the breaded chicken on the prepared baking sheet. (The recipe can be prepared up to this point, covered, and refrigerated up to 8 hours ahead of time.)
Preheat the broiler and set an oven rack about 4 inches from the heating element. Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer over low heat. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking (with store-bought sauce, I find a generous pinch of sugar and fresh basil go a long way). Cover and keep warm.
Line another baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment for easy clean up; set aside. In a large nonstick skillet, heat about 1/8 inch of oil over medium heat until shimmering. Place 5 or 6 tenders in the pan in a single layer and cook until the first side is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Place the cooked chicken on the prepared baking sheet. Cook the remaining chicken in the same manner, adding additional oil only if necessary. You may need to lower the the heat as you go, so that the chicken doesn't brown before it is cooked through.
Sprinkle the fontina and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano over the center of the chicken tenderloins, leaving the sides bare so that they remain crispy. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a serving platter or individual plates. Spoon the marinara sauce over the cheese, again leaving the sides bare so that they stay crispy. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.
Make-Ahead Instructions: The chicken tenders can be breaded and refrigerated up to 8 hours before pan-frying. The chicken is best and crispiest when fried right before baking, but it can also be fried up to 4 hours in advance and refrigerated. Reheat the chicken in a 350°F oven until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes, before adding the cheese and proceeding with the recipe.
Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The breaded chicken tenders can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze the chicken on the baking sheet until firm, about 1 hour, then transfer to a resealable freezer bag or layer in an airtight container with sheets of parchment between the tenders. Defrost in the refrigerator before cooking.