Let’s talk about the parmi.
The Parmi- Veal or Chicken Parmigiana- is a quintessential Australian-Italian classic (if indeed there is such a thing) which flourishes in the pubs and clubs of regional Victoria (I have had a particularly good one at the pub in Healesville in the Yarra Valley), Melbourne (the pub on the corner of William St in West Melbourne springs to mind), and South Australia, but I’m yet to have a memorable one north of the border…so if you know of one, please tell me!
I’ve ordered the parmi in RSL clubs, Bowling Clubs, Sports Clubs, Pubs- all traditional purveyors of the parmi. I’ve held high hopes for parmi ordered in Italian Restaurants.
There have been times when I have thought I’ve found it- a decent parmi in NSW- but have been disappointed all too often: the meat is over-cooked, the crumbs boring, the cheese overdone, the tomato straight out of a bottle…. the list goes on.
The parmi is the stuff of legend, with websites dedicated to the search for the perfect parmi, and Facebook pages set up to take suggestions for new offerings.
So, what exactly is a parmiagiana? Its source is Southern Italy, but its been adapted by Italian migrants to Australia. Essentially it is a fillet of (usually) veal or chicken pounded evenly into a schnitzel and crumbed before being fried, topped with tomato, ham and cheese and grilled. This is comfort food at its best and a long, long way from fine dining and healthy eating.
The crumbs are critical- preferably made fresh from sourdough bread with a touch of herbs (I use thyme and parsley) or panko crumbs (if you can’t be faffed making your own). I like to put just a smidgen of freshly grated parmesan in my crumb too.
Then the schnitzel is floured, dunked into beaten egg and immersed in crumbs. I sometimes put my schnitzel into cornflour rather than normal flour before the eggy bready stage… no idea why… in fact, I have no idea if it even makes a difference.
The schnitzel should then be fried in just enough oil to leave a golden crust, ensuring the meat inside is still tender and not able to be used as a kitchen weapon.
It can then be popped onto some kitchen paper to get rid of any nasty greasies, before being topped with ham, tomato & cheese… but not just any ham, tomato and cheese.
I use thinly sliced parma ham, which we just warm through a tad. Then some tomato is added, but again, not just any tomato sauce… a tomato sauce that is enriched with garlic, finely diced shallot and some red wine and then reduced until it will sit beautifully on top of the parmi. If you can’t be faffed making your own sauce, a tin of crushed tomatoes with herbs and garlic will do the job.
The whole thing is then topped with sliced mozzarella and popped under the grill until the cheese melts.
The perfect parmi needs the perfect wingman. Sure you can serve it with steamed veg and maybe a couple of baby potatoes, but I prefer crinkle cut chips and coleslaw.