On a recent visit to Australia, we were searching for the quintessential local comfort food and discovered a unique Melbourne institution called Mrs. Parma’s. Since we had already feasted on our fair share of fish and chips during our stay, our palates were craving something new.
The pub was only a few doors from our hotel, and the sign on the door read “Best Parma in the World." Needless to say, we had to try it out. But what is a “parma” (or “parmy” as some locals call it)? Parma is a classic Aussie dish that everyone in Australia loves, the chicken parma is at every pub and most restaurants in Australia. Mrs. Parma's menu items feature only Parmigiana, which is typically an Italian dish (such as breaded chicken, veal or eggplant) sautéed and layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. But at what point does this Parma become interesting? Mrs. Parma's takes this traditional Aussie food and makes it fun! The menu choices include a variety of endless toppings, Greek, Cajun corn, Mexican to name a few. The most popular item on the menu appears to be the "Parma’geddon" featuring a homemade chili sauce that includes 4 different chilis and takes 4 days to make!
We weren't ready to attempt that one!
Tim and I split the "Aussie" which is the breaded chicken served with sliced beetroot, crispy bacon and fried egg. The portion was generous and every bite delightful! All entrees are served with a fresh lettuce salad with a twist of lime and a side of chips (french/potato fries).
I had a craving for the "Parma" upon our return to the States and immediately attempted to recreate that wonderful meal. The following recipe can be used for chicken, veal or eggplant; cooking time will vary depending on your choice. Serve with your favorite pasta or with salad and fries for a true Aussie Pub experience!
Chicken Parma Aussie Style
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano,, plus 4 Tablespoons for topping
- 3/4 cup panko, (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1/4 cup olive oil for frying, extra virgin
- Tomato Sauce,, recipe follows
- 1 pound mozzarella,, shredded or fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- Fresh basil or parsley leaves,, for garnish
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or plum tomatoes in puree,, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Place the chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag. Close the seal, leaving about an inch unsealed to let air escape.
- Pound the chicken with the smooth side of a mallet or a rolling pin until chicken is about 1/4” thick. If the chicken breasts are too thick, using a sharp knife, slice the chicken breasts on the bias into smaller thinner pieces before pounding.
- Combine flour, salt and pepper on a pie plate or shallow bowl.
- Beat the eggs in another pie plate or shallow bowl and set aside.
- Grate the cheese and combine with the bread crumbs on another plate.
- Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, then cover with the egg, then finish with the bread crumb and cheese mixture. Make sure to press the crumbs into the chicken breasts on both sides.
- Place breaded chicken breasts on a baking rack in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. This will make for crispy chicken and help keep the breading from falling off when cooking.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet or cast iron-skillet over medium heat. Oil should be about 1/8" deep.
- Cook chicken breasts, adding more oil if needed, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. The chicken will continue to bake off in the oven.
- Transfer chicken breasts to a baking sheet and top each breast with some tomato sauce and a few slices of the fresh or grated mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in the oven until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted, about 6 to 8 minutes. If using thick chicken breasts, insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of each breast to make sure the chicken is fully cooked. The temperature should read at least 165 degrees F or 74 degrees C.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano, Garnish with basil or parsley leaves.
- Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5-10 minutes.
- Add the wine and cook on medium-high heat until almost all the liquid disappears, about 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes, salt, pepper, parsley and basil.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Reduce heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
Gr8 Do-Ahead Tip:Chicken can be breaded 3 months in advance. After breading separate the chicken with wax or parchment paper and wrap in plastic wrap or freezer bags. Place in freezer. Thaw before continuing with Step 8. Mrs. Parma's has two locations in Melbourne. Sauce adapted from Ina Garten.