Besides spaghetti and meatballs, no other dish is as wildly popular as Chicken Parmigiana, or chicken parm. This comforting meal can be found in every pizzeria and red sauce joint in the New York metro area but is also available across the country at various chain restaurants. Chicken parm is so synonymous with Italian-American food that many may find it hard to believe it is almost impossible to find anywhere in Italy. So where exactly does chicken parm come from?

If you prefer video, watch the full episode 17 YouTube video version.

Podcast 17 featured image with Jim, Tara, and chicken parmigiana in the background.

Chicken parmigiana, also known as chicken parmesan or just chicken parm combines thinly sliced breaded and fried chicken cutlets with tomato sauce that’s topped with mozzarella cheese and baked until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and lightly golden.

It’s loved by all…well, at least by those here in the US.

Chicken parm, while synonymous with Italian-American food, does not originate in Italy and the Italians who are aware prefer to deny its existence and may even find it offensive.

In this episode, we explore the origins of chicken parm, how it stems from melanzane alla parmigiana, also known as eggplant parm, and its importance to the Italian-Americans who proliferated its popularity.

We discuss its ingredients, how it’s made, and variations such as our layered eggplant and chicken parm.

Most importantly, we pay respect to a dish that’s often looked down upon for seemingly no good reason. We’re not ashamed to say we love chicken parmigiana!

Resources

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Overhead shot of cooked chicken parm in cast iron pan on blue board.

Transcript

Intro

James (00:00):
Welcome back to the Sip and Feast podcast. Today we’re going to talk about chicken parmesan or chicken parm. This is everybody’s favorite, I would think, especially if you’re listening to this content. Before we get into that, I just want to let you know that we’re going to be uploading the podcast either on Monday or Tuesday. Now, we’re going to leave it to you to tell us which would be your preferred day. Those are the only two choices you have. That’s it, but it could be morning or at night. Also, for all your questions, email us at podcast@sipandfeast.com.

Why should you like it?

(00:32):
So before we get into it, I just want to sell you on why you should like chicken parm, why you should be thinking about chicken parm the way we think about chicken parm. Chicken parm really simply is a breaded cutlet that is fried, never baked. It has a delicious sauce. Often it’s a fresh sauce, mozzarella cheese melted on top of it. It is comfort food. It is Italian American comfort food. It is uniquely Italian American. It is not an Italian thing, and it is a great thing. It’s an amazing thing, and I would go out on a limb and say Italians, people in Italy, wish they could take ownership of it, but they can’t. They just can’t. So what they do then is-

Tara (01:17):
They don’t want to take ownership of it.

James (01:19):
What they do then is bash it.

Tara (01:21):
I actually just read an article, and I was going to save this to talk about later, but this is a good time for me to interject. I read an article saying that Italians try desperately to forget that chicken parm exists in the world, and that they are so traumatized by the fact that this recipe exists.

James (01:43):
That’s so funny.

Tara (01:44):
And the article was written by an Italian, not an Italian American.

James (01:48):
Yeah. But again, I don’t think-

Tara (01:49):
It’s a traumatizing dish.

James (01:50):
I don’t think that person speaks for everybody in Italy.

Tara (01:53):
They might not, but I’m just telling you what I read.

James (01:55):
Just like people who’d write an article about Americans, and if they’re writing it from someone who’s in LA or someone who is in Florida, they don’t speak for me. They don’t speak for you.

Tara (02:04):
Right. That’s true.

James (02:05):
But, yeah, you’re saying that they all hate chicken parm.

Tara (02:07):
Based on what I’ve read.

Chicken parmigiana scooped out of pan.

Where to find chicken parmigiana

James (02:09):
So I know you love chicken parm, ’cause you’re still with me. Let’s get into it.

Tara (02:15):
So do you want to talk about some of the places you’d find chicken parm or the ways that it would be served here?

James (02:20):
Where you would find chicken parm would be from the most inexpensive pizzeria or chain restaurant like the Olive Garden, or Carrabba’s, or something like that. All the way to the most expensive restaurants like El Molino, Rao’s, Carbone, or Carbone, however people are saying it. Is it better in those restaurants paying 50, 60, maybe $70 for it versus your local pizzeria? I’m not sure.

Tara (02:50):
Yeah. I think a lot of it probably comes down to the level of preparation that the restaurant’s putting into it. I know there’s certain shortcuts that places can take. They can use a frozen cutlet from a bag-

James (03:04):
Ugh, that’s horrible.

Tara (03:04):
… and make it with that, or they can make it-

James (03:07):
That’s a travesty.

Tara (03:09):
They can make it the real way.

James (03:09):
I don’t think anybody’s doing it that way.

Tara (03:11):
No, I think they are.

James (03:13):
Not your local pizzeria.

Tara (03:14):
Not your local pizzeria. But I think maybe in other parts of the country where pizzerias aren’t as prolific or available, they are doing it that way.

James (03:27):
When I’m speaking about what a pizzeria is doing, I’m speaking about what a pizzeria here in New York is doing. And they wouldn’t be caught dead doing a frozen cutlet out of a bag, just like they wouldn’t be caught dead not making a pizza the way it’s supposed to be made.

Tara (03:43):
Is The Olive Garden really using fresh chicken cutlets that they’re pounding and frying? I would guess not, but if somebody who’s listening has worked at The Olive Garden and you happen to know, let me know if I’m wrong.

James (03:55):
You’re right. They probably are using it out of the bag. I had a friend who worked at the Macaroni Grill in college.

Tara (04:00):
Oh, I remember that place.

James (04:00):
Yeah. Yeah.

Tara (04:02):
Yeah.

James (04:02):
So I would think it’s fairly similar.

Chicken parm origin

Tara (04:04):
But I think if you’re going to some of the more high-end places, they probably are taking the time to pound the cutlet and really just do it the right way. I think it’s maybe helpful to back up a little bit and talk about maybe the backstory.

James (04:18):
The origin.

Tara (04:19):
The origin of Chicken parm, and we already talked about the fact that it is not an Italian dish. However, its roots are in Italy. And it’s from eggplant parm, which in Italy is called melanzane alla parmigiana. So there are some speculations by food historians as to what city or what region this dish originated in. It’s possible that it’s from the city of Parma, which is in the northern part of Italy, and it’s actually in the northern part of Amelia Romana.

James (04:59):
That’s the predominant explanation. I think that’s because they’re the victors. They get to try to write the history more than southern Italians.

Tara (05:08):
So there’s a few other theories. Okay? So the reason why that theory exists is because Parma is the name of the city, Parmigiana, but because melanzane alla parmigiana was popular in the southern regions like Campania and Sicily, that’s more likely where eggplant parm comes from. So there’s an authority on Sicilian food that I read an article about. His name is Pino Correnti. His theory is that the word parmigiana stems from the word damigiana, which is a wicker sleeve that’s used for wine bottles, and also the same type of sleeve would be used for the hot casserole dish that eggplant parm would’ve been served in. Another theory is that the word is derived from the Sicilian word palmigiana, P-A-L-M-I-G-I-A-N-A, meaning the slats on a roof, which would resemble the layering or the shingle-like layering of the eggplant.

James (06:12):
That’s what I read, but it said parmiciana. So C-I-A-N-C-A is the slats.

Tara (06:19):
I’m just telling you what I-

James (06:19):
No, keep going.

Tara (06:20):
And we’ll link all these articles-

James (06:22):
Yeah, keep going with what you have.

Tara (06:23):
… and sources. So those are the theories as to where melanzane alla parmigiana actually comes from.

James (06:31):
Do you have more or is that it? I have another one.

Tara (06:34):
Those are the theories on the words that I found.

James (06:36):
Okay. I read that it came from the Middle East. All right? That’s where it came from. Some food historians speculate that the dish originally was meant to duplicate, I’m thinking of the Greek dish with eggplant in it, it’s like-

Tara (06:50):
Moussaka?

James (06:51):
Moussaka. Yeah. So that’s what I read. I did read that.

Tara (06:54):
Okay. I didn’t even see that.

James (06:55):
The early version of moussaka, so layered egg plant, which is what moussaka is. Moussaka, and I’m not an expert on this at all, but it’s ground beef, like seasoned ground beef, layered eggplant. I think it’s pre-fried or pre-roasted, and then layered potatoes, and then all topped with a bechamel sauce. So that’s moussaka. It sounds delicious. I mean that-

Tara (07:18):
I mean we’ve had musca many times.

James (07:20):
Oh, yeah. No, and I want to make moussaka. We grew so much eggplant this year that I was going to put moussaka on the website, and I wanted to make a video too, but we just never got around to it. I actually sent my mom home yesterday with a bunch of eggplants when she came over. It’s like a jungle out there, and there’s so many more eggplants. But yeah, I read that that’s another theory about moussaka.

Tara (07:42):
So I mean it’s hard to really know for sure where the dish came from, but basically the takeaway is that chicken parm’s origins are in eggplant.

James (07:55):
I don’t think there’s any debating that. It’s the origins of where the name came from that we tried to go over briefly, just a couple of them for you.

Chicken parm in cast iron pan.

Immigrant wave created it

Tara (08:03):
Being that chicken parm is not originally from Italy, it’s hard to talk about it without spending just a few moments mentioning the immigration waves that took place of Italians into the US.

James (08:19):
And just before Tara goes on, this is the most significant thing about all the food that’s consumed here in Italian American culture. And that culture is specifically New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago. But we talk about New York. That’s what we’re, you would say, experts in. We’ve lived here for our whole life. Except for three years when we ventured into Minnesota. So that’s what we’re going to talk about here.

Tara (08:48):
So the first wave, believe it or not, I don’t know if you know this, Jim, the first wave of Italian immigration was mainly Northern Italians.

James (08:55):
Yes, I read that.

Tara (08:56):
Okay. And that took place prior to 1870. They were refugees from the wars that were taking place to unify Italy, and when Italy declared its independence. So those northern Italian immigrants made up about 25,000 or so.

James (09:14):
Wow, so a a tiny, tiny bit.

Tara (09:15):
So a small amount. And again, that was prior to 1870. And then from the 1880s through the 1920s, more than 4 million Italian immigrants had come to the US, and when that wave finished, it represented 10% of the foreign-born population in the US. And the reason for that immigration from Italy into the US, it was really fueled by extreme poverty. And it was mostly from southern Italy, including the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. So it was really the poverty, famine, not being treated as well by their northern countrymen, I would say, is part of it as well.

James (10:06):
A little tangent here, I read very quickly, because you said their first wave was 1870 or pre-1870. Unification was 1860. So pre that or around there. I read that the first restaurants to open, they were trying to duplicate those northern Italian dishes, so they would have bolognese on the menu, they would have other things that were further north. And then finally when the southern Italians came here on mass, they were told, “You have to make bolognese.” And they were like, “Well, what are you talking about? This isn’t the food that we have.” So that whole thing about a sofrito, a mirepoix and bolognese, which is a unique thing for that dish, but it is not a unique thing for a lot of southern Italian cooking. Which just you skip that, you don’t put the carrot in.

(10:56):
Eventually, the sheer numbers of them took over, and then every dish that was here in New York for, basically, the last 100 and something years lacks that northern Italian bent. You do have a few restaurants every so often that come around, but for the most part, it’s always that red sauce fair.

Tara (11:18):
Yeah, that’s right.

James (11:19):
Okay. I just wanted to just interject that little part.

Tara (11:21):
No. That’s good. That’s good. Getting back to chicken parm. So when those Italian immigrants arrived here, they now had access to proteins, right? Like beef, chicken that they didn’t typically have in Italy. In Italy at that time, meat was usually reserved for the upper class who had enough land, I guess, to farm their own animals.

James (11:46):
We don’t realize how good we have things here, even to this day. So Angie, who is Tara’s stepmother, she immigrated here when she was 12, you think? 11?

Tara (11:55):
I think she was 9 or 10, but she was from a later wave-

James (11:59):
She was from a later wave-

Tara (11:59):
… of immigrants.

James (12:00):
… but she gives a lot of insights still. Even her family members who are relatively well off there, they don’t have air conditioning.

Tara (12:07):
They don’t have air conditioning period.

James (12:08):
So it’s so expensive just to even have air conditioning.

Tara (12:14):
And they’re in southern Italy where it does get hot.

James (12:16):
So it’s just crazy what you take for granted what we have here in America and what people that they’re definitely not the poorest there, what they don’t have.

Tara (12:27):
Yeah. But I know there’s plenty of people here in the US that don’t have air conditioning either.

James (12:30):
That’s true. But at a minimum, a lot of people here will have window units.

Tara (12:35):
In some areas. I mean, we’re watching the Appalachia series.

James (12:40):
That’s true.

Tara (12:40):
Peter Santenello. I mean I don’t think those people have air conditioning.

James (12:43):
Yet I can drive through the Cross Bronx and see every apartment building’s got air conditioning sticking out the windows. That’s not exactly a well-off place.

Tara (12:52):
Yeah. All right. So once Italians had the access to the proteins, as I mentioned, chicken parm kind of cropped up. And it originated in East Coast neighborhoods that were mainly inhabited by Italian immigrants, and it later spread to restaurants and cookbooks in the 1950s. Then I think what really helped it take off was in 1962, The New York Times published a recipe for chicken parm.

James (13:20):
So you read 1962, there’s multiple sources on the internet that say it was 1953, so we can’t confirm that if it was 53 or 62, but it was around that time period.

Tara (13:31):
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

James (13:33):
I would think that probably the early immigrants who didn’t … It always takes a certain amount of time before they can open up restaurants, before they can open up the cheese shop, the butcher, they were probably making these dishes far earlier. Probably way before 1952 or 62, but when it became a wave of popularity is that time period. Yeah.

Tara (13:58):
All right. So that’s our very quick and dirty overview with maybe some information that’s still to be-

James (14:07):
It’s debated-

Tara (14:08):
… determined about-

James (14:08):
… and flushed-

Tara (14:09):
… the dates and the origins and yada yada yada.

James (14:11):
This is a conversational podcast, this isn’t super precise and exact factual dates and ultra researched. You know what you’re getting here?

Tara (14:25):
The one thing that I’m taking away from doing this is that there’s uncertainty on the internet about where things originate. And that’s true for almost everything. That’s why you should always question things that you read online.

James (14:44):
It’s getting to the point now where it’s hard to find correct information, and if you do find correct information, it’s very often not on page one. It’s just not. Page one is just SOEd to death and you got to go down to page five or six. And I’ve said this in past episodes, when I’m looking for recipes, like good recipes, I want a website that doesn’t even really work anymore. I’m not kidding. That hasn’t been updated. It was like the first version of the … It was Web 1.0 that this person who was probably 60 or 70 at the time and is probably no longer alive, it’s their work. And they might have left 800 recipes that aren’t formatted correctly or anything, but it’s there. The info is there.

(15:29):
Now, there’s a website that is well taken care of, but it’s definitely not a flashy new website. And I’ve mentioned him before, it’s Memorie di Angelina, and he definitely takes more of an Italian bent. He’s lived in New Jersey and he’s lived in Italy part of his life. I’ve never spoken to the man before, but I believe he’s a lawyer in both America and in Italy. So he has this unique skillset. But he always tries to tell you how his family make things, but he’ll tell you the American version, and then he’ll tell you though the real roots of it, how it’s supposed to be. And I don’t even know if he has a chicken parm recipe on the site.

Tara (16:13):
I didn’t even think to check his website for this.

James (16:15):
I don’t know if he has a chicken parm one.

Tara (16:16):
He might not. Yeah.

James (16:18):
Yeah. But those are the type of sites that I’m often looking for when I’m trying to find real information about things.

Platter of chicken cutlets.

Pictured above are chicken cutlets from our chicken milanese recipe.

Making the perfect cutlet

Tara (16:24):
Yeah. So Jim, how do you go about making chicken parm? Tell us like we’re toddlers, teach us.

James (16:33):
I’m going to give you the really quick and dirty about it, and I did a 10-seconds in the beginning of the episode. Chicken parm is a chicken cutlet. So a chicken cutlet comes from a chicken breast. And when you buy a chicken breast in the store, it’ll be fat. And at that point you cannot just bread that and fry that. It wouldn’t be good. And even the worst cooks probably wouldn’t attempt to do that, though I can’t be certain. Most people will try and they’ll want to buy thin cutlets already so they don’t have to go through the process of fileting them. And I say filet often and people will always try to correct me and they’re like, “Jim, it’s not fileting, it’s butterflying.” No, butterflying is when you book match, you make a book out of the breast-

Tara (17:21):
Yeah, and you open up.

James (17:21):
So what you’re doing is you’re taking your knife, flat edge of the knife, and you’re opening it up, but you’re not going all the way through. Then you turn it over, and you pound it flat. And that would be for if you were going to do-

Tara (17:32):
Like schnitzel.

James (17:33):
… a schnitzel, if you were talking about German cooking, or if you were going to do an impressive chicken Milanese in a restaurant. They’ll often do a huge cutlet like that, pound it very thin, and then maybe they’ll make a salad for the Milanese. We have a recipe where we do a little tomato salad with fresh mozzarella balls. But normally, standard chicken parm make, they won’t really butterfly. They’ll just filet the cutlet. Then they’ll pound them and there’ll be about a quarter. Then some places will do a half-inch thick chicken cutlet. And then after that, it gets floured, then it gets egg-washed, and then finally it gets dipped in seasoned breadcrumbs. And those seasoned breadcrumbs, some people will just buy your store-bought seasoned breadcrumbs that typically just has dried parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper in it. Or you could just make your own breadcrumbs and then mix whatever seasonings you want into them.

(18:30):
So it’s flour, egg, breadcrumbs. My mother often would just do egg and then the breadcrumbs, and it would still be fine. The worry is that the coating will fall off. So that’s that. You would bread all your cutlets. And I like to bread the cutlets. I’ve done this in many videos where I go through the whole flour egg breadcrumb step, and then I have baking half sheets with parchment paper. So I can line up, say, I’m doing like 7, 8, 10 pounds of cutlets. And by the way, doing 7, 8, 10 or 15 pounds of cutlets is a very Italian American thing. It is something that people, this will ring true to you if you’re from New York, if you’re from New Jersey, you probably remember your grandmother doing this. That’s what my grandmother did. Just wouldn’t do a couple pounds of them.

(19:16):
So they would fry them up and then you’d have them for the week. You eat them cold, eat them hot. But anyway, that’s what I will do. I would set them on the parchment paper and then I will go about frying them. And to fry them, you can do a shallow fry or you could put more oil in the pan. Personally, I like more oil in the pan when I do them. What do you think about all this, Tara? Sounds pretty good, a cutlet right now?

Tara (19:38):
That’s how I’ve made it.

James (19:39):
Yeah.

Tara (19:39):
Yeah.

James (19:40):
At this point, I didn’t talk about the sauce yet and the cheese, but cutlets scare people a lot of times, making them. What do you think is your problem, issue with doing cutlets or do you not have a problem, issue? Do you think you’re very proficient at it now?

Tara (19:55):
I don’t have a problem with it anymore. I think when I started cooking, cutlets were intimidating, especially if I wasn’t buying the thin cutlets, like you mentioned. Having to filet them myself was a little intimidating. I think this is a fairly simple process. I guess my biggest fear would be under-cooking them. But I think with chicken parm, and I know you’re going to get into it more and that it gets baked also, is that it doesn’t have to be fully cooked after you’ve fried them because they’re going to spend some time in the oven.

James (20:28):
They will be fully cooked, and people will often wonder about that. They’re like, “Well, you’re not supposed to overcook white meat chicken, which is what a cutlet is.” You read a million times, you watch some famous chef on YouTube or on food network say, “It’s got to be to 160.” So then you’re asking yourself, “Well, at that point it’s already done. I’m now going to do the whole extra cooking process.” Normally when you deep fry something like that, when you fry something like that, it will retain enough moisture in it. But your cutlets are probably going to be cooked all the way through if they’re thin enough.

Tara (21:01):
The cutlets, they’re so thin, they will probably. But I guess you asked me what my fear was. That would be my main fear with the chicken cutlet would just be that I didn’t fully cook it.

James (21:10):
Also, a thing could be if you’re doing 10 pounds, it would be you have to clean your oil while you’re doing it, removing sediment, which means essentially, it’s flour and breadcrumb particles, egg batter, all that.

Tara (21:24):
Yeah.

James (21:25):
Yeah. Maybe stopping. Personally, if you’re going to do 10 pounds, I would have three pans going on your stove.

Tara (21:32):
That way you can do them all at once, because otherwise, I mean that could take hours.

James (21:36):
Yeah. And these are things that a family would do often. I mean you’re not going to see a single individual making 12 pounds of cutlets, unless they planned on freezing them. But they’re great for a family, because then you stick them in the fridge. And then like when I was young, I would just grab a cutlet or two and put it on white bread with mayo and salt and pepper, it’s delicious.

Tara (22:00):
Yeah.

James (22:01):
What’s great about if you do all your cutlets in advance, then you can do chicken parm the next day. Now, people worry a lot about this, and this is a comment that we get in a lot of videos. I assume it was somebody who … I don’t know, some YouTuber who’s not from New York, he was saying that the cutlet has to be crispy. So they’re led to think like, “I got to fry a cutlet and then I got to not put it in the sauce.” And I actually made it this way in the video. I actually think I did it this way to avert the criticism, which is not the way that typically people will do it here.

(22:40):
And they’ll put it on a wired rack just with the cheese on top and a little bit of sauce to keep it crispy. But most of the time places are just … Because this is a family dish, this is something for the big group. So doing baking trays of it with the sauce and then put the sauce in the tray, then you’re lining your cutlets, then you’re lining your cheese, and then you’re doing it in the oven. This is peasant food for people here. It’s not gourmet food.

Tara (23:09):
So Jim, when you are going to bake the cutlets, when the cutlets are done, and you talk about putting them in the pan, let’s not talk about the wire rack method of preparing. Let’s talk about that family preparation. And I know the answer to this, I’m asking because maybe folks don’t know necessarily. So eggplant parm gets layered, right? You’d layer eggplant one on top of the other. You wouldn’t layer chicken parm, right?

James (23:39):
No, I wouldn’t layer it, but you can definitely do a half layer. We didn’t get into the sauce, so we need to talk about the sauce and the cheese. We’ll do one at a time.

What type of sauce?

Tara (23:47):
Yeah. So for the sauce, I mean there’s different options. Right? Would you use a marinara sauce or would you maybe repurpose a Sunday sauce or does it matter?

James (23:58):
So it doesn’t matter. But depending on what you use, you’re going to get extremely different results. Most pizzerias and places, they have a sauce that they just have in a big huge stock pot that is for their chicken parm, their eggplant parm, and that sauce is kind of a quick sauce. It’s close to what you would call a marinara. There’s not a lot in it. There’s not a lot of seasoning. Versus a Sunday sauce, like a Sunday gravy, is going to be much richer. And a Sunday sauce is always cooked with meat. So you have your braciole, your meatballs, your sausage in it. If you take that sauce, and you do it with the chicken parm, you’re going to definitely have a different flavor. Personally, I love both.

(24:40):
I mean I do love both, but I’m trying to think of what you’re going to do, and probably a quick sauce would be what’s more appropriate. Especially if you’re trying to duplicate a alla parmigiana in Italy, which is going to be a quick sauce, tomatoes, barely cooked basil, and then the cheese, layered.

Tara (25:03):
That’s right. And that’s my preferred way to do it. I was actually wondering, similar to how when you make a pizza sauce, you’re not cooking it. It’s getting cooked when it’s spending time in the oven on top of the pizza.

James (25:16):
That’s right.

Tara (25:17):
Could you do the same thing for chicken parm? Could you just use a can of crushed tomatoes with a little bit of kosher salt and that’s your sauce?

James (25:25):
No, you definitely can. But if you do do that, you want to drain them, just like you do with the pizza, you have to drain them.

Tara (25:30):
Okay.

James (25:31):
Because what happens is when you make a sauce, whether it’s a marinara in 15 minutes or a Sunday sauce, you’re evaporating water in the tomatoes, the heat is evaporating the water. If you’re taking straight tomatoes out of the can, you got to get that water out.

Tara (25:44):
Okay, that makes sense.

James (25:45):
This is why I encourage you to make these things and make them your own. These are two very different dishes when you use two different types of tomatoes. And the same thing goes for the cheese. So even though most modern interpretations … And again, we were talking in the intro when we were saying how it’s trying to be claimed that it was created in the name, parmigiana, who knows what the real truth is behind it? But if you’re going to do that, then you must use Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for it, plus your mozzarella. But you don’t have to do that, it’s delicious if you just use mozzarella and pecorino. But I’m sure in Sicily they probably make a lot of them with different types of cheese. It doesn’t have to be a certain way. And another thing that’s really good, and we did a video for it, is making chicken and eggplant parm together.

Chicken eggplant parmesan in plate held in hands.

Pictured above is the delicious combo of chicken eggplant parmesan.

Tara (26:39):
That’s right. That was good. That probably enraged lots of people in Italy.

James (26:45):
It didn’t. When you can’t decide, you put them both together.

The mozzarella

Tara (26:47):
So Jim, you say you’re using mozzarella cheese. Is it the fresh, is it block? Should you ever use the bagged shredded version?

James (27:00):
Okay, so I don’t recommend the bag shredded that has the anticaking agents in it. But you can in a pinch. And that’s honestly probably what a lot of pizzerias are using anyway. Most pizzerias are using mozzarella by Grande, the brand Grande, and I think Grande sells it by eight pound bricks. And they probably do have a graded version, a shredded version, I should say. I personally like block mozzarella more than fresh mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella is very hard to melt properly. And time is a little bit of the essence when you’re making this dish. You don’t want to be baking it for 45 minutes, because as we said before, your cutlets are already cooked.

Tara (27:39):
Yeah. So really the only reason you’re baking it maybe is to let the cutlets absorb some of the sauce and to melt the cheese.

James (27:46):
Yeah. I mean, if you don’t want your crispy cutlet … And remember if you’re going to do this with a crispy cutlet, time is of the essence. You got to fry those cutlets, drain them properly, make sure you have your sauce, your cheese ready to go. You would put the cutlet on top of a wired rack, and then you would put your cheese, and that would probably be a little bit of mozzarella. You could also get sliced mozzarella from the deli counter, and then you could either put a little bit of parmesan on top or maybe better under the mozzarella to lock it in. That’s if you want parmesan, but, and you know if you watch me, you’re better off with pecorino, always. Always better off with pecorino.

Tara (28:21):
I’m team Parmigiano Reggiano.

James (28:26):
Ugh, well, and that’s great. We still love each other and we can disagree on that.

Tara (28:32):
We can disagree on whether or not we love each other too. No.

James (28:35):
But this is a great dish. You really should try to make it your own here. I don’t think I adequately told you how good this is. And there’s Instagram accounts devoted just to chicken parm, and people, they call themselves chicken parm connoisseurs.

Tara (28:53):
So what temperature would you bake the chicken parm?

James (28:58):
I mean, honestly, I would just do it at 400, get it done quick. Just get the cheese to melt, and it’s so much easier to melt the cheese by using block mozzarella instead of fresh mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella too, you melt it, and then once you take it out of the oven, it will harden up to a rock again in a matter of a minute. So your timing, if you’re going to do this, and if you’re one of those Reddit boys, and you want to do this, and you want to impress your date for the first time, when you pull that out of the oven, you better make sure she’s sitting at the table and ready with her fork and knife to eat it, or it’ll just dry into a mass again. That’s personally why I always prefer pizza with regular block mozzarella, Grande mozzarella, or Paleo or Galbani or whatever.

Tara (29:41):
I prefer fresh for eating raw, not raw, uncooked, I should say, or not melted. Right?

James (29:47):
Yeah.

Tara (29:48):
Like in salads and sandwiches.

James (29:51):
I love fresh mozzarella-

Tara (29:51):
Things like that.

James (29:52):
… but there’s a reason why block mozzarella, why Paleo, the original block mozzarella company that essentially built New York, I mean, they had such an effect here. They had cookbooks that every single person … My mom still has the books and she goes crazy over them. They all had them and exchanged all those recipes that were essentially the Paleo recipes. Paleo created all these recipes so you would use their own products in the dishes.

Tara (30:21):
You should drop a photo of your mom’s Paleo cookbook in the show notes.

James (30:26):
Yeah, I should. I got to get it back if she’ll give it to me. She’s like, “Jimmy, where’s my book?” So I go see. She might have it in a safe now or something. So we’re going to move into questions in one second. If you liked this episode, consider subscribing to our Patreon. There’s three price levels. Each one’s a little different. The maximum level is going to get the cookbook when the Sip and Feast Cookbook comes out, but that’s going to be a number of months from now. Regardless of what level you’re on, you get full Discord benefits. And then the other thing is you get two more podcast episodes per month. Right after we finish this one, we’re going to be filming the Patreon episode.

Tara (31:08):
Right.

Question 1 – Food safety

James (31:09):
All right. Let’s go into the questions.

Tara (31:12):
Okay. So Jim, the first question comes from Christine. I’m going to read you what she sent us. She says, “I’ve been obsessed with watching food videos for some time and have always been bothered by something. I know it’s not sexy or time-efficient to show every true step in the cooking process in a YouTube video, but over and over again, I see cooks not seeming to follow good food safety practices in their kitchen. My husband and I worked in grocery retail, each of us for nearly 30 years, and have taken our fair share of food safety courses. So we notice when a cook handles raw chicken and then washes their hands for three seconds of running water without soap, or forms a ground beef patty, and then dips their fingers into a salt bowl for a pinch. I’ve never seen anything close to this in your videos, and I’m just wondering how conscious you are of this issue when you are in the kitchen?”

James (32:01):
So Christine, this is a great question. As far as the salt one, I had multiple people tell me, ’cause I think I actually pointed out in one video, I said, “Wash your hands after I was fooling around with ground beef.” They’re like, “It doesn’t matter. You can put your fingers right into the salt.” And I use a salt box, which I’m sure anybody who’s watched the channel knows, it’s a great little tool to have, but they’re like, you could reach right in at that point because salt cannot carry anything, cannot be a vector to carry anything. Out of habit, I always wash my hands no matter if I’m touching beef, chicken, pork, always. And you’re right, you haven’t seen on the channel me handling things in a bad way because I just don’t. I don’t. And part of that is just I’ve always followed these rules and it’s ingrained, it’s habitual.

Tara (32:50):
I think part of the reason why, and I know Christine acknowledges that it’s not time efficient to show the cleanup process, but there really is so much that happens off camera that you wouldn’t be interested in watching. I mean, after we handle chicken, we’re wiping down the entire counter and any surface that could’ve potentially come in contact with the chicken before we move on to the next step.

James (33:17):
Yeah. And I have rags I use with a little bit of bleach and water. And those rags, which you might notice, those are to wipe down counters and stuff. And it’s just, Tara’s right, you can’t show everything. What we struggle with is we really do try to show, I think a lot more than most channels do, that slows us down substantially. So we’ll have about 45, 50 minutes of footage and then it gets cut down to a 12 minute video for you.

(33:47):
The other thing is the beginning part, the prepping of the ingredients is what takes the longest. So I love this guy. His name is Pasquale Sciarappa on Facebook. He has a YouTube, but he’s much more popular on Facebook, and very old Italian man from New Jersey. And if you watch me, you probably know who I’m talking about. All the ingredients are already there in the beginning of each video. So it’s really nice how he does it, and I don’t know why I’m not migrating to that. I feel like if I do that, Tara, then the videos will be very short.

Tara (34:22):
Do you mean his ingredients are already prepped when he goes?

James (34:24):
All prepped in bowls.

Tara (34:26):
So he’s not taking time to video all of the prep and the chopping and everything?

James (34:31):
I’ve never seen him cut anything. Yeah, it’s always just right to cooking.

Tara (34:34):
I mean we have gotten a lot of comments saying that people really enjoy watching you prep the ingredients. They find it to be relaxing.

James (34:42):
And the prepping has sped up dramatically. In the early videos, I used to show myself chopping an onion and I would say chop or dice an onion or whatever. Now I do a monologue. Basically, the video is like, “Hey, welcome. We’re going to make blah, blah, blah, let’s get into it.” And then boom is the monologue. So the monologue is me talking about all the ingredients and then I overlay the footage of when I prepped it. So that’s what I do to try to move everything along. Those monologues are fairly difficult, because there’s no script or anything. So I have to commit to memory the ingredient amounts and everything. And sometimes, just a little secret, it takes me two tries to do it. Right?

Tara (35:22):
Yeah.

James (35:23):
Yeah.

Tara (35:25):
And sometimes if you say the wrong amount of an ingredient, you can’t go back and-

James (35:29):
No.

Tara (35:30):
… re-shoot that. So you just throw up on the screen-

James (35:32):
I throw it up on the screen with text, which isn’t ideal. You really want to get everything in audio.

Tara (35:36):
Yeah, yeah. But-

James (35:37):
Well, thanks for the-

Tara (35:38):
… that’s why we always send people to the website for the complete written recipe.

James (35:44):
I wish everybody goes to the website, because it’s a million times better, the recipe. And it’s not about helping me and Tara, it’s about helping you. It’s so much better for you. That is the one ace in the hole we have above almost all the other channels. If you’re trying to make a recipe from just my video instructions, that’s going to be a lot more difficult than if you have the print recipe also with you. And I’m not talking about just a text thing in the description of the YouTube video. I’m talking about the real print recipe, the way it’s itemized on the recipe card that’s on the website. It’s beautiful how it’s done.

Tara (36:20):
Yeah, I agree.

James (36:21):
Beautiful. Yeah.

Reginelle cookies featured image.

Pictured above are our reginelle cookies, our favorite.

Question 2 – Christmas cookies and looking for help

Tara (36:22):
I agree. All right, so the next question comes from Mary. And Mary wants to know if we’re doing a Christmas cookie collection on the website. She wants to make cookies this year, and she’s looking for some inspiration.

James (36:34):
Well, thanks for the question, Mary. I don’t know if we’re going to do a collection. We do have, I believe, about 24 desserts on the website, but there needs to be more cookies. I do agree with that.

Tara (36:45):
We have a good portion of cookies on the website, and they’re all really Christmas cookies, right? Cookies that would be made around Christmas time. And that’s lemon ricotta cookies. We have Cuccidati, which are the fig-filled cookies? We have pignoli cookies.

James (37:05):
Yeah. The Cuccidati are a Sicilian cookie. Basically all the desserts that we have are the Sicilian ones.

Tara (37:10):
Yeah, the pignoli. We also have the walnut snowball cookies. We’ve got Lindsor cookies, almond biscotti. We have pizzelle, which I don’t know, it’s like a cookie or a waffle, but we eat them as cookies. Reginelle Cookies.

James (37:28):
Oh, the Reginelle are amazing.

Tara (37:28):
Which are the sesame sea cookies, which are probably my favorite.

James (37:31):
And you can make them all year round. I wouldn’t even associate them with Christmas. They’re like the perfect cookie to have with your morning coffee.

Tara (37:39):
Yeah. That’s like the quintessential New York Italian bakery cookie. Every bakery will have them.

James (37:46):
Because every bakery in New York is almost always Sicilian. I don’t want to generalize. There are some that aren’t, but they all-

Tara (37:53):
The one by us is not.

James (37:54):
Well, that’s not an Italian bakery.

Tara (37:57):
No, I know.

James (37:58):
Yeah. No, there are non-Italian bakeries, but once you get to an Italian bakery, they would never, in New York not have all the Sicilian desserts. I mean, imagine that you go into a bakery and you’re like, “No, we don’t have cannoli.” You’d be like, “What?”

Tara (38:12):
Yeah.

James (38:12):
And what about, I can never say it right, sfogliatelle? Is that Sicilian or not?

Tara (38:17):
I think it is. It’s sfogliatelle.

James (38:20):
God, I can never say that. Never.

Tara (38:21):
And I’m probably not even giving it justice, by the way I’m pronouncing it. But the immigration here, it gets pronounced differently by different people depending on where your ancestors are from. Some people-

James (38:31):
Yeah. Angie says it horribly. Yeah, she dies, she says, “Sweetadel.”

Tara (38:36):
Yeah. Some people call it sfogliatelle, Sweetdale.

James (38:39):
You got to get the F in front of the S, which it just doesn’t come out.

Tara (38:43):
But if you’re going to pronounce it the way it’s spelled, it would be sfogliatelle.

James (38:47):
So anyway, that dessert, which it looks like, how would you describe it? Like a seashell. Okay?

Tara (38:53):
It looks like a seashell that’s-

James (38:54):
It’s a whole bunch of layers.

Tara (38:55):
… crispy on the outside, and then the inside has a ricotta, which-

James (39:01):
Yes, dry. Dry.

Tara (39:02):
… my pronunciation of ricotta was called out in a previous podcast.

James (39:06):
Well, I mean, the person who was getting-

Tara (39:09):
I don’t say regot, because that’s not the way I grew up saying it.

James (39:11):
And my mom says, “Regot,”

Tara (39:13):
No.

James (39:13):
But I try to toe the line. So you always hear me saying it. I’ll always be like, “Ricotta.” I always try to bring the vowel at the end of it, but nobody in New York says with the vowel, everybody says, regot. You listen to somebody-

Tara (39:27):
No, I think the person was telling me I need to say regot.

James (39:30):
No, I know he was. And a lot of people in New York will do that, just like they’ll say, “Don’t call it sauce, call it gravy.” But no, there’s other ones, you’ll see meme jokes about it, but people will not say, “I’ll take the fried calamari.” They’ll be like, “I’ll take the-

Tara (39:44):
The galamari.

James (39:44):
Yeah, the galamari. It almost sounds like you think it was only shown that way in the Sopranos. It’s not true.

Tara (39:54):
That’s how I grew up saying it. I say ricotta, I’m not going to be like Giada De Laurentiis and be like, “Ricotta.” But I say it the way I say it.

James (40:06):
I can’t take Giada seriously at all, because I heard she doesn’t eat any of the food she makes.

Tara (40:09):
I heard that.

James (40:10):
That’s ridiculous. So she’s been making food all this time and never eating it.

Tara (40:14):
I will say, though, any of the recipes I’ve made from her have been really good. So I do take her seriously.

James (40:19):
Well, okay.

Tara (40:20):
And if she doesn’t want to eat her own food, then …

James (40:22):
Yeah, I got to stop eating all my food. I’ve been eating way too much of it. And honestly, this is the time of year that I get even more worried, because now I’m going into pizza and bread baking season. But right before we go, I want to tell you if you’re listening, or maybe you know someone, there are certain recipes on our site that are going to take too long for me to do right. And say it again?

Tara (40:46):
Oh, sfogliatelle?

James (40:47):
So that one is going to take too much work for me to do. I would put a contributor on, and we want to have a couple contributors, people that know. You need to know more than me. You need to be like, “Jim, this isn’t right.” I want to bring a dessert person in to do that.

Tara (41:07):
Well, the person has to know how to make dessert, but they also know how to photograph.

James (41:11):
Yeah, it’s going to be a little tough ask. But yeah, if you can photograph, if you can-

Tara (41:15):
In the same style that we do.

James (41:16):
And if you could do those desserts, we would love to have you. The other thing we would love to have is if you’re a pasta maker, if you’re a professional pasta maker, because the pasta-making stuff, it needs to be done. It’s almost like table stakes. But many of you are not going to make a lot of these recipes, but we do need to get them on the site. And that goes from your basic fresh pastas all the way to your more complex tortellini, ravioli, stuff like that. So it’s a process. But yeah, those two things, just want to put it out there. Again, podcast@sipandfeast.com. Send us an email with your questions. We will see you next time.

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