On a recent visit to Australia, we were searching for the quintessential local comfort food and discovered a unique Melbourne institution called Mrs. Parma’s. Since we had already feasted on our fair share of fish and chips during our stay, our palates were craving something new.
The pub was only a few doors from our hotel, and the sign on the door read “Best Parma in the World.” Needless to say, we had to try it out. But what is a “parma” (or “parmy” as some locals call it)? Parma is a classic Aussie dish that everyone in Australia loves, the chicken parma is at every pub and most restaurants in Australia. Mrs. Parma’s menu items feature only Parmigiana, which is typically an Italian dish (such as breaded chicken, veal or eggplant) sautéed and layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. But at what point does this Parma become interesting? Mrs. Parma’s takes this traditional Aussie food and makes it fun! The menu choices include a variety of endless toppings, Greek, Cajun corn, Mexican to name a few. The most popular item on the menu appears to be the “Parma’geddon” featuring a homemade chili sauce that includes 4 different chilis and takes 4 days to make!
We weren’t ready to attempt that one!
Tim and I split the “Aussie” which is the breaded chicken served with sliced beetroot, crispy bacon and fried egg. The portion was generous and every bite delightful! All entrees are served with a fresh lettuce salad with a twist of lime and a side of chips (french/potato fries).
I had a craving for the “Parma” upon our return to the States and immediately attempted to recreate that wonderful meal. The following recipe can be used for chicken, veal or eggplant; cooking time will vary depending on your choice. Serve with your favorite pasta or with salad and fries for a true Aussie Pub experience!
Tomato Sauce is adapted from Ina Garten.
Place the chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag. Close the seal, leaving about an inch unsealed to let air escape.
Pound the chicken with the smooth side of a mallet or a rolling pin until chicken is about 1/4” thick. If the chicken breasts are too thick, using a sharp knife, slice the chicken breasts on the bias into smaller thinner pieces before pounding.
Combine flour, salt and pepper on a plate or shallow bowl.
Beat the eggs with water and pour onto another plate or shallow bowl.
Grate the cheese and combine with the bread crumbs on another plate or shallow bowl.
Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, then cover with the egg, then finish with the bread crumb and cheese mixture.
Place breaded chicken breasts on a baking rack in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. This will make for crispy chicken and help keep the breading from falling off when cooking.
Heat 2-3 Tablespoons of oil in a large heavy skillet or cast iron-skillet over medium heat. Oil should be about 1/8" deep.
Cook chicken breasts, adding more oil if needed, until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
Transfer chicken breasts to a baking sheet and top each breast with some tomato sauce and a few slices of the fresh or grated mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the oven until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the oven and garnish with basil or parsley leaves.
Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5-10 minutes.
Add the wine and cook on medium-high heat until almost all the liquid disappears, about 3-4 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes, salt, pepper, parsley and basil.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Reduce heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
Chicken can be breaded 3 months in advance. After breading separate the chicken with wax or parchment paper and wrap in plastic wrap or freezer bags. Place in freezer. Thaw before continuing with Step 8.
Mrs. Parma's has two locations in Melbourne.
Sauce adapted from Ina Garten.