Chef's Hat: Pack a punch with Parmesan
Parmesan cheese is an ingredient that most people always have on hand. This cheese has a nutty and slightly salty type flavor and greatly enhances the flavor of foods when merely sprinkled on top of meats, vegetables, breads or even fruit.
Parmesan is called the "king of cheese" and to qualify as authentic Parmigiano Reggiano it has to come from specific regions in northern Italy, contain no holes and ripen at least a year. This is a cheese that has been made for over 800 years.
In some regions of Italy it has been continuously made by the same families for generations. Quite an interesting history for this king of cheese.
The sudden interest in Parmesan came about when I ran across a recipe for Creamy Parmesan Carbonara Chicken. This is a delightful recipe that can be made as a low-fat recipe if you so desire by using low-fat half and half and cutting down on the bacon. This is an easy recipe to make and great for a weeknight or a weekend dinner.
There is nothing that goes better with bread than garlic and cheese. I've taken garlic bread and sprinkled cheese on top with great success. Monkey bread has always been a favorite of mine, so finding a recipe for monkey bread that included Parmesan cheese was something I definitely had to try. The Monkey Bread recipe makes a great appetizer, or throw together a simple salad and you have a complete meal.
Parmesan is low-fat, chock full of calcium and protein and is a good source of vitamins A and B. So even if you are counting calories there's no need to give up on Parmesan. Freely enjoy this nutty taste to enhance your favorite meats and vegetables. Happy Eating!
Creamy Parmesan Carbonara Chicken
Adapted from cafedelights.com
For the chicken:
- 2 large, boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally so they aren't too thick
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (freshly grated or pre-grated in the can)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
For the sauce:
- 4 or 5 strips of bacon (cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 1 teaspoon jarred garlic
- 1 1/2 cups half and half
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch mixed in 2 teaspoons water to thicken sauce, if desired
- Sliced green onions for garnish, if desired
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, combine the flour and Parmesan cheese. Dredge seasoned chicken in the flour mixture; shake off excess and set aside.
Heat the oil and butter in a large, nonstick pan. Fry the chicken over medium heat until golden brown on each side, cooked through and no longer pink (about 6 to 8 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your chicken). Remove and set on a plate while preparing the sauce.
If there is quite a bit of butter/oil in the pan, remove most of the liquid using a spoon or paper towel. Add the bacon to the pan and fry until crispy. Drain off the excess fat. Turn the heat to medium. Add the half and half and garlic. Once the liquid warms, reduce to low and add the Parmesan. (If the sauce is too runny, add a bit of the cornstarch mixture and stir well. Let the sauce warm and continue to add a bit of the mixture until the sauce is thick enough.) Cook the sauce until it is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the chicken back into the pan and let the sauce warm up the chicken. Once warm, place onto serving dishes and top with green onions.
Parmesan Garlic Monkey Bread
Adapted from kraftrecipes.com
- 1 12-ounce can refrigerated biscuits
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ½ cup shredded Italian cheese or mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup favorite pizza sauce or pasta sauce
- Nonstick cooking spray
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Separate the biscuits; cut into quarters and set aside. Mix margarine (or butter), Parmesan and seasonings in medium bowl until blended. Add dough pieces; toss to evenly coat with cheese mixture.
Spray a 9-inch round pan with cooking spray. Place the dough pieces in the pan. Pieces should be touching. Top with the shredded cheese. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, just until the biscuits are golden brown.
Let cool for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan and place on a serving platter. Serve with your favorite pizza or pasta sauce.