January 16, 2011

Baked chicken parmagiana

My grandfather passed away yesterday morning. My family is back east taking care of each other, addio, nonnoand I'm here, alone, doing the best to control my Italian crisis defense mechanisms (start cooking and stop when the grief is gone, or you run out of ingredients). I find myself crying substantially less than I did for my Nana - it's hard to grieve a situation where what happens is exactly what was desired by those involved.

My grandparents were married for nearly sixty years when my grandmother passed away, and since she died, my Papa became increasingly withdrawn. He lost all interest in his old hobbies, he all but shut out his eight living children and the twenty-one grandchildren, and he had all the pictures of Nana put away because they devastated him. It's been so easy to be mad and frustrated at the fact that he ceased caring about his remaining family, but to be honest, his was a grief that none of us could have entirely understood. Fifty-seven of my grandfather's ninety-seven years were spent with this woman. They had nine children, fifty-eight birthdays and Christmases, and nearly seventy-thousand meals together. At a certain point, their life together became longer than their lives apart had been - the day they met - so adorablethis is something absolutely unfathomable to me at twenty-four years old.

At a party once, my friends and I got to talking about the idea that some people have that there is something that our grandparents had right but that our generation has wrong when it comes to dating and marriage. I can't say that I subscribe to the belief in "the halcyon days." I'm sure they had problems just like we do, but for some reason, it's easier to sort of romanticize their era. Maybe because they didn't have websites where they peddled their faces and hoped for the best ... but still, there had to have been anxieties about finding someone to share their lives with, right? If I had to choose their strength, I'd say that maybe their generation was a bit more patient and understood waiting for what's perfect little better than we do.

Yesterday, thinking of love and loss and my Papa, I made a "lightened up" version of chicken parmegiana - baked, not fried.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 4 oz. each)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg white
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 oz. mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and spices. Dip chicken in egg white, then coat with the crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, then flip chicken and cook for 8-10 more minutes, or until cooked through (but not overcooked). Spoon tomato sauce over chicken and sprinkle with cheese. Put chicken back into the oven for 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Yield: 2 servings; each serving has approximately 415 calories, 10.5 g fat, 112 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, and 46 g protein

You can add more sauce to suit your tastes - I like things on the dry side, so I just did a little. Also, I still do not trust myself with having cheese in the house, so I bought two individual pieces of string cheese and topped each chicken breast with one that I tore apart. My off-the-boat-Italian grandfather probably wouldn't have enjoyed it, but I thought it was delicious, and it reminded me of how much I love my family.


Anonymous said...

My condolences on the loss of your grandfather. I know it is hard to be away from your family during this time.

I didn't even know you could buy individual string cheeses! There is tons of cheese in my house since my kids eat it in all forms (babybels, laughing cow, cheese sticks, shredded) but it's all 2% or fat free, so it's not a huge temptation for me. I eat the fat free shredded on salads, but that's about it. Feta is my favorite, though. Your chicken parm looks delish.

Patsy said...

So sorry for the loss of your grandfather. Really lovely photos - thank you for sharing.

Jess said...

So very sorry for your loss.

Jules said...

Sorry for your loss...I lost my step-dad last week and wrote about food and grief.. That past generation..your right...patience AND not so much immediate gratification...they took the good with the bad...for better or worse....

Tim said...

Sorry to hear about your Grandfather x

My Grandparents were together for a similar amount of time too before they both died and I also can't get my head around spending so long with one person and then losing them.

Take care,

Tim x

Rainbowchild said...

Sorry for your your loss.
I will deffinatly try your chicken dish.
Take care of yourself at this sad time xx

Amy said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandfather. I'm sure a huge part of you is happy knowing that they are reunited together now.

My grandmother's best friend died last year and my grandma was devastated, however; everyone found peace with the fact that she had been reunited with her husband...he had died months earlier, and everyone believed she died of a broken heart.

I know what you mean about the past era of love stories, that it's just so different now... and I believe that. I think it all has to do with timing now... we invest so much into our careers, education and experiences now, that love gets put on the back burner.

Maude said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Mary. What lovely photos - I especially love that old one of the two of them.

You know what I'm starting to think the older generation had right? They didn't expect perfection. I think our generation has these expectations of blissful happiness at all times that their generation just didn't have. They expected things to get rough, and they also expected to stick by each other no matter what. I agree that we romantasize it, but there IS a romance to the stability and hard work in a relationship that lasts. I hope I'm as lucky to have the years that your grandparents had with my husband.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about your grandpa! My thoyghts are with you and your family. Losing a grandparent is absolutely the hardest thing I've dealt with. My grandpa was my best friend and he was that special person in my life. When I lost him I felt like I lost a link to a past I had never known...the time before I was around, the time before my dad was ever around.

It will take time but remembering good times and reliving them in your thoughts will help. Though, I have yet to fill that void, there's an emptiness there but it is filled with love and I feel it whenever I think of him, which lately has been all.the.time!

Katie Warren said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather, Mary. =( but kudos to you for fighting the urge to cook and cook and cook! I am going to try that recipe, It looks amazing =)

Rainbowchild said...

Just wanted to say I cooked the chicken dish for dinner tonight and it was lovely, OH asked if there was anymore which is always a good sign.

Big Clyde said...

He looks sweet, yet I understand your mixed emotions of his sadness and isolation. It would have been hard for me to accept that as well. This was a nice tribute to him.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome love story! Sorry about your grandpa, though.

The chicken looks yummy!