Hayley Mills — playing the parts of Susan Evers and Sharon McKendrick — plus Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith in the 1961 Disney film The Parent Trap.
#100daysofcooking, Recipes

Day 93: A cheesy old movie, a cheesier chicken parmigiana

Chicken Parmesan with Pasta

Ask my brother Doug about that time I memorized a book.

It was sometime in the 1970s and the book was The Parent Trap, written for the 1961 Disney movie starring Hayley Mills, Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara. I read it so many times that I knew much of it off by heart.

There are many things I have forgotten in the ensuing years, but not the opening lines of that book. Pretty sure it went like this: Sharon McKendrick splashed her foot in the shining waters of Lake Niquiquam. “You know,” she said to the new friends and cabin-mates who sat beside her, “I think Camp Inch is great.”

All this came flooding back to me as Dan and I sat down this week to eat a dinner of chicken parmesan. I’d been asking him a lot of questions about NHL pre-game meals (more on that later) and that had us both craving chicken and pasta. More specifically, crispy breaded chicken breasts smothered in red sauce and melted mozzarella.

Mmmmm, cheese.

The all-important date scene from 1961's The Parent Trap, with Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith
The date scene from The Parent Trap, with Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith

Naturally, we popped open a bottle of red wine to go with it and, for some reason, that caused the book’s Big Scene to pop into my head.

In it, the match-making twins (both played by Mills) set up a patio dinner for the parents. Hecky the hired hand does double-duty as a violin-playing gypsy, while Mills does double-duty singing and dancing in the duet Let’s Get Together“Don’t you understand?” Margaret tells Mitch afterwards. “The drippy candles, the violin music, the Veal Parmigiana. Martinelli’s. Don’t you remember? … Our first date. They recreated it.”

Cheese. Glorious, glorious cheese.

But here’s a little-known fact: I could read like the wind and commit entire chapters to memory but I was the original Miss Pronunciation. I put the W in sword, I gave chaos an extra cha-cha-cha, and I struggled like heck with … par-me-johnny?

I still pause before pulling a sword. But not only have I learned to cook this Italian favourite, I’ve worked my way around the pronunciation problem. Turns out, you can replace “parmigiana” with “parmesan” and it’s the same darn dish.

It’s a cheesy solution, but it works for me.

Kitchen Castoff Used

The remaining marinara sauce from Dan’s pizza night

Doesn't matter how you say it, Chicken Parmesan is a great dinner for a date — or a pre-game carbo load.
Doesn’t matter how you say it, Chicken Parmesan is a great dinner for a date — or a pre-game carbo load.

This is how we did it

This recipe comes from the 2012 Rocco DiSpirito cookbook Now Eat This! which has recreated classic Italian recipes and brought them all in under 350 calories per serving without sacrificing flavour. In this version, the traditional frying of the chicken in butter is replaced by baking the breasts in a hot oven


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise and pounded flat
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 eggs (or just egg whites, to reduce calories), beaten until foamy
  • dried oregano
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 8 even slices
  • 1 oz grated parmesan, or Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese


Turn on the oven broiler and position the rack about 12 – 18 inches away.  Prepare a baking sheet, lining with foil and placing a wire rack on top.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dip in the egg, then into the panko and coat evenly. Spray each cutlet with four seconds of cooking spray, then place on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of oregano.

Place the chicken in the oven and cook for about 8 minutes per side. While the chicken is cooking, heat the marinara sauce on the stove.

When the chicken is done, place in an ovenproof glass dish then top each one with some sauce and 2 slice of mozzarella. Return the cutlets to oven and cook until the mozzarella is melted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parmesan (or Parmigiana-Reggiano) cheese.

Serve on top of pasta, or with a salad, or both.

Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.

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