Monday, June 20, 2011

OLD AKRON MEMORY TRIP

There are plenty of days when some odd something or another will trigger thoughts of places or foods from my distant past.  The other day during a particularly bad morning, I made an off-the-wall comment about looking forward to a two martini lunch and somehow the conversation took a turn towards the past.  Our conversation turned almost immediately to old Akron restaurants where you were likely to find business men sitting at a bar sipping their lunches.  These places are nearly gone now, but those that came to mind were Nick Anthe's (still an icon on North Main) and Iocomini's on West Market. 

The other name to come to mind was Sanginiti's on East Market Street. In the 1980's working in downtown Akron, Sanginiti's was a rite of passage.  As a young girl never exposed to anyone sitting at a bar at anytime, much less at lunchtime, walking into the place gave me quite a sense of sophistication. 

Well, needless to say, my martini lunch didn't happen last week, but it did inspire me to recreate a favorite menu item from Sanginiti's that I still remember very fondly - Chicken Parmesan. My family never ate anything like this - we were hillbilly pretty much all the way, so the only way we ate chicken was fried and pasta was reserved for spaghetti and meatballs served at our table only once or twice a year.  So aside from the mystique of the bar open at lunch, the food was also a bit exotic to me.

This was the place I had my first Waldorf Salad and I still love to make these from time to time.  But today was reserved for the Chicken Parm.  This meal is easy to assemble with things most of us have on hand: shredded mozzarella in a sack and a wedge of Parmesan from the fridge; a small jar of marinara sauce and some penne pasta or spaghetti in the pantry; and a chicken cutlet from the freezer.  20 minutes later my dinner was ready with a glass of nice red wine alongside.

No doubt this wasn't up to the Sanginiti's standards, but it satisfied an itch of mine and allowed me to relive an old memory through food.  I've made better versions of this in the past given more time and fresher ingredients, such as tomatoes out of the garden, fresh basil for my own marina and some fresh mozzarella from DiVitis.  I did not bread the chicken either which is my way of cutting down on calories, and I'm sure Sanginiti's made their version without todays fat concienceness in mind.  For today however, this was just the thing to satisfy an urge.

CHICKEN PARMESAN

1 4-ounce chicken cutlet
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of California seasoning (mixture of garlic powder and dried parsley)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup penne pasta
1/2 cup good jarred or fresh marinara sauce
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3-4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Put a small pot of water on to boil, season with salt and add pasta to cook to al dente.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (as usual I use my toaster oven for this as it's small and convenient without heating up a large oven).  Season the chicken cutlet with salt, pepper and California seasoning.  Pre-heat a heavy skillet on medium high heat.  Add olive oil and the chicken cutlet.  Brown on first side 2-3 minutes.  Turn and let cook in skillet for a minute or so. 

Place the shredded mozzarella on top of the cutlet and place in the preheated oven.

Meanwhile, once the pasta tests done, drain the water and return the pasta to the hot pan.  Add the marinara sauce and heat through.  There should be a little extra sauce - that's fine, it's for the chicken.

Check the chicken in the oven after about 5 minutes.  The chicken should be cooked through but if the cheese hasn't browned to your satisfaction, turn on the broiler for a moment or two. 

Remove the chicken from the oven and place on a warm plate.  Add a little of the extra sauce from the pasta over the cutlet, and plate the pasta alongside.  Top both with the Parmesan cheese and serve. 

Today I added a nice Merlot from Wellington Vineyards.  Smooth and full-bodied, it stood up well to the strong flavors of the pasta sauce and cheese.

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