Please excuse my long hiatus between blogs. Unlike more experienced bloggers, I failed to heed my able marketing guru’s advice about having a backlog of blogs so that I would have a constant stream of new material when I got busy. I learned, to my detriment, that going live with my new website for my law practice and taking a well-earned scuba diving vacation cuts into the time I had to be creative in the kitchen and come up with new material. Lesson learned!
Our yearly dive trip to Pirates Point on Little Cayman, did yield at least one idea for a new meatless version of a well-loved favorite. After eating Chef Diane’s chicken parmesan for lunch after a wonderful pair of dives, my son Nick mused, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could create a chicken parm?” That got my mental gears turning about which products to use, and what shortcuts I could take with the sauce to make this easy to prepare.
For the sauce, I decided to use the simplest tomato sauce I know. I takes literally five minutes to put together in the slow cooker, and can cook for as little as 90 minutes on high or up to 5-6 hours on low. It involves no sautéing, and only eight ingredients. It was always my go to sauce when Nick was a toddler (way back in Baltimore – my strapping 21-year-old now towers over me) and was created because Nick hated onions. I reasoned that onions gave flavor and what he probably didn’t like was the texture of the sautéed onions in my sauce. So I embellished on a classic Burro e Pomodoro, using unsalted butter, crushed tomatoes and petite diced tomatoes, a Vidalia onion (peeled and cut in half), a peeled garlic clove, a couple of stems each of basil, parsley, and oregano. To this day it is one of our favorite sauces and has a clean fresh flavor. Trust me – it is deceptively simple to make, but of so satisfying.
I’ve tested two chicken analogues so far: Quorn Garlic & Herb Chik’n Cutlets and Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders. My guys unanimously choose the Quorn product, but said that I needed to use a lot more sauce. I had gone easy on the sauce because I didn’t want to affect the crispness of the chicken analogue. I need to do a bit more studying on how I can get this dish nice and juicy with lots of tomato sauce, and plenty of mozzarella and parmesan, without impairing that essential crispness of my stand-in for chicken.
No recipe is provided tonight because I want this to be a fantastic dish when I unveil it, and I also have a lot of other products to test. Each meat analogue is different, and while I think I’ve come up with two good contenders, there may be others out there that will do a better job of filling in for the “cluck, cluck” in this dish.
Thank God that Chicken Parm is one of Nick’s most requested dishes. I trust he’ll be sampling a few more variations this summer before he goes back to college in mid-August.
I’ve you’ve already experimented with meatless Chicken Parm, please send me your ideas about other products to try or how you make your version. I’d love to hear from you!