Crispy Parmesan Chicken and Fish

Panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese give a crispy crunch to oven-baked Tilapia

Panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese give a crispy crunch to oven-baked chicken and fish.

Easy. Fast. Delicious. That’s the kind of recipe I love for a week night meal, and this fits the bill – plus, you can let your creativity soar with this one!  I first learned this  concept from the back of a Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix envelope.  The ingredients were  simply the seasoning mix, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder, and the process was to coat boneless, skinless chicken breasts with the mixture and bake.   I tried it – it was tasty and the cheese crisped up nicely, but I thought it was pretty salty.  I suspected the seasoning blend was loaded with sodium and preservatives, so next time around, I started experimenting with my own seasonings and even added some Panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch.  I’ve used this on both chicken and fish with great results and with or without the bread crumbs.   I’ll outline my basic concept below and then you can create your favorite flavor combinations.

Ingredients:

Approximately 1 pound tilapia filets or chicken breasts  (I use small, tender chicken breasts – 4 ounces each.  I don’t think this would work well with larger, thicker chicken breasts)

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (I use Kraft from the refrigerator case.)

Seasonings –

Use or create your favorite seasoning – i.e lemon pepper, garlic pepper, etc.  My favorite home-made blends use the Litehouse brand of freeze-dried herbs, which I grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle.  Their flavor is much closer to the flavor of fresh herbs than most dried herbs.  Here is one combination I like – I use about 1/2 teaspoon of garlic, 1 teaspoon red onion, 2 teaspoons basil, and 1 teaspoon oregano.

Very simple bread crumbs, cheese and herb mixture

Very simple bread crumbs, cheese and herb mixture

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Use a non-stick pan or line a baking pan w/ “release” foil.  Put the bread crumbs, cheese and seasonings in a gallon zip lock bag.  Add the chicken breasts and shake well.  (The mixture will thinly coat the chicken.)  Lay the chicken on the baking pan in a single layer.  Pat the remaining cheese and bread crumb mixture on top of the chicken.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

When I do the fish, I like to do it in a shallow baking pan.  I first squeeze a little fresh lemon juice (or any citrus) with some chicken broth in the bottom of the pan.  Not a lot – just trying to keep the fish moist and add a little flavor.  I don’t toss the fish in the plastic bag as it is more delicate and could break apart – instead I lay it in the pan and – oh! Here’s another trick! 🙂 – I sometimes spread a little Dijon mustard on top of the fish – again, layering a bit more flavor.

Tilapia with Mustard

Then I take the bread crumb/cheese/seasoning mix and pat it on top of the fish.  Don’t worry if some of the topping spills into the liquid – it will help thicken the broth as it bakes and you may end up with a nice little sauce!  I bake at 400 degrees  for about 20 minutes or until the fish is done and the topping is browned.

Tilapia for the oven

Ready for the oven!

If you don’t want to do the bread crumbs, you can just do the Parmesan.  Here is a pan I made the other day (no crumbs), ready to go in the oven.

chicken lemon dijon herb parmesan

I mixed a little lemon juice with the mustard and herbs and slathered on the chicken, then just shook the Parmesan cheese on top.  Very quick!

Fun and easy to create your own blend of seasonings in a mortar and pestle

Fun and easy to create your own blend of seasonings in a mortar and pestle

The cheese did not crisp up  as much – probably due to the moisture from the lemon mustard – but it did get brown and bubbly and the whole combination was quite delicious!

Parmesan Dijon chicken - served with roasted broccoflower, baby potatoes and grape tomatoes.

Parmesan Dijon chicken – served with roasted broccoflower, baby potatoes and grape tomatoes.

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