Friday, September 30, 2016

Parmesan Chicken Bake (No Mayo)

Last Year's Post:Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup (Copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana)
Two Years Ago:  Perfect Apple Crisp

I've seen a recipe for "melt in your mouth chicken" floating around the internet for a number of years, and people absolutely rave about it.  The chicken is coated in a mayonnaise and parmesan mixture prior to baking which keeps the chicken very moist and adds great flavor but it's not exactly the most healthy recipe on the planet. I mean, mayo.  I never tried it for that reason until I stumbled across a version that suggested substituting plain Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise.  Yes!  I was somewhat skeptical that it could possibly taste as good as mayo, but hope is eternal.  And besides, I'd never tasted the mayo version so how would I even know?

I must say I was very impressed with the heavenly smell as it baked, and then with the taste.  It's absolutely delicious, moist and very flavorful with hints of garlic, parmesan and just a touch of warmth from the red pepper flakes. I added some toasted almonds on top for crunch and some parsley for color and then served it over spaghetti.  Pair it with a crisp green salad for a complete meal.

Some versions of the recipe call for leaving the chicken breast whole; this one calls for cubing the chicken prior to baking.  I like that for two reasons:  it bakes faster, and you can serve less than one entire chicken breast per serving.  Since chicken breasts have gotten huge lately, that helps with portion control.

Note that there will probably be some clear juices in the bottom of your baking dish when it comes out of the oven, which is why the recipe calls for using a slotted spoon to remove the chicken. The creamy topping stays on the chicken pieces, though, which is where all the flavor comes from.  Another note is that the recipe specifically calls for freshly grated Parmesan, which is what I did - I don't know if pre-shredded or grated Parmesan would work equally well.  One last thought is this isn't the prettiest dish I've ever made, so part of the reason for the almonds and parsley is to give some color and contrast.  But boy, does it ever taste good!  And it's really easy and fast.  Next time I might add some asparagus or other green vegetable to the pasta as well.

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Parmesan Chicken Bake
Serves 4

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon seasoned salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup Italian bread crumbs or Panko crumbs
¼ cup sliced toasted almonds, for garnish (optional)
Chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
Hot cooked pasta or rice, for serving

Preheat oven to 375d.

Cut the chicken into 1” cubes.  Coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and spread the chicken evenly on the bottom.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except bread crumbs (yogurt through red pepper flakes) and mix well.  Evenly spread the mixture on top of chicken, coating completely.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.

Place the pan in the oven, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes.  If desired, you can turn the broiler on for the last minute or so to brown the top.

Remove the pan from the oven and use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove the chicken and place on the pasta or rice.  Top with almonds and parsley and serve.

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