Alton Brown † Photo by Cole Cassell
Alton Brown † Photo by Cole Cassell
Chef Alton Brown is many things at once. He has the warmth and charm of Chef Massimo Bottura, and the audacity and humor of Gordon Ramsay. He’s just like Heston Blumenthal, but also playful like Jamie Oliver. It’s hard to describe the culinary style of a chef whose cooking philosophy fluctuates between “scientific” on the one hand and “cooking with your heart” on the other.
His best-selling cookbook was released this month, titled Good food debuts “In recent years”— his fourth and final episode. While some writers feel a sense of mourning over the final chapter, Brown shows signature nonchalance. “Oh, I’m fine,” he tells us. “I mean, as long as I do food-related projects, Good food will always be part of the mix, because that’s me. i am essentially Good foodor maybe it’s the other way around.”
Long before celebrity chefs influenced us on social media, and certainly before TikTok and Reels made them jump on viral cooking trends as a way to make a mark, Brown was a trailblazing personality in the food world. He started his show in 1999 Good food and his first book I’m only here for the food released in 2002. The first ran successfully for 14 years and has since published eight best-selling cookbooks.
“I never paid attention to trends,” he says. “I’ve always made the shows and written the books I wanted to make. I have been lucky enough to have clients who have left me that.”
Out of all his four cookbooks from the Good food series, Brown admits that the latter was the hardest to put together. “This new book has a lot of original food photography and behind-the-scenes shots, things we just didn’t have for the first three books,” he says. “There are also more illustrations and in-depth explanations. Frankly, the first three books were written specifically for people who actually saw the shows, while with this book I assumed they hadn’t.”
It’s hard to describe the culinary style of a chef whose cooking philosophy fluctuates between “scientific” on the one hand and “cooking with your heart” on the other.
The fourth has different recipes like lasagna, shrimp cocktail and chili that never appeared on TV, which is a first for everyone Good food book. “They had to be handled differently and I’m especially happy about that,” he says.
So that the last cookbook stays in the family of the series, Brown has arranged it like all the others Good food books, running chronologically from the first season of reloads to the last, “With the two seasons of ‘The Return’ laced into it. So if you’re looking for a particular recipe, it’s best to search the index. There is also a lot of bonus material and footnotes… sometimes the best things are in the footnotes,” he promises.
To keep recipes relevant months after they’ve aired, he follows a certain process of revisiting recipes and making them relevant for today’s use. “It is a twofold process. First, it involves re-evaluating the actual instructions, that is, the written instructions of the recipe, and then re-evaluating the resulting dish. Sometimes new research emerges, or certain ingredients become more readily available, and that too can change things.” This also applies when fans no longer like a dish, “Or when I don’t like it!”
A classic that stuck is his Parmezan Chicken, who first appeared in season one of his show. Brown says the Italian-American classic has long been plagued with soaking breadcrumbs, uninspired sauce, and melted cheese that turns gummy. But his method, with San Marzano tomatoes and a crispy layer, guarantees all the ideal textures and flavors.
Alton Brown’s Chicken Parmesan Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
Yield: 5 cups
• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
• 6 large cloves of garlic + 2½ tablespoons finely chopped
• 4 anchovy fillets
• ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 2 cans peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained, with the liquid reserved
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 1 (2-inch) Parmesan rind
• 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 1½ cups of crisps with salt and vinegar
• ¾ cup breadcrumbs
• 2 teaspoons dried parsley
• 1½ teaspoon dried oregano
• 1½ teaspoon garlic powder
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
• 1 cup Red Sauce
• ½ cup low-moisture mozzarella cheese, grated
• ½ cup Italian Fontina semi-soft cheese, grated
• Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
1. Start making the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the anchovies and red pepper flakes and continue cooking, breaking the anchovies with the back of a wooden spoon until they dissolve in the oil, about 1 minute.
2. Add the tomatoes and salt. Break the tomatoes with the spoon and dip the parmesan rind into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is au sec or almost dry, about 1 hour.
3. Fish out and discard the parmesan rind. The sauce is ready to use right away, but you can also cool it and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It freezes extremely well.
4. To make the chicken parm make sure the briskets are very thin so split them butterfly style with a sharp knife, only cutting all the way through to make two pieces (four in total). Then gently mash them until they’ve thinned out evenly to about ⅛ inch.
5. Cut each plank into six to eight equal pieces. Season with salt on both sides, place on a wire cooling rack in half a baking pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
6. Set the breading station: the flour goes into the first loaf pan or cake pan; the beaten eggs in the second. Crush the potato chips (yes, with your fingers) in the third and stir in the breadcrumbs, dried parsley, oregano and garlic powder. Place the second clean grid in the nearby half-baked tin to hold the breaded pieces.
7. Remove the chicken and pat well with kitchen paper. Dip the chicken in the flour first (shake off the excess), then dip in the beaten eggs (let the excess drain again) and finally coat with the breadcrumbs before placing on the prepared wire rack (don’t shake off the excess). Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the top third of the oven and turn the grill to high. Line another sheet pan with paper towels and cover with an inverted cooling rack. Have it ready for the cooked chicken to land on.
9. Place the sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil. When the butter foams, add half of the breaded chicken to the pan, but not overcrowded. Cook, undisturbed, except to turn, until crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side, adding more oil if needed. Place the gold pieces on the rack, wipe the pan and repeat with the remaining butter, oil and chicken.
10. Spread three quarters of the red sauce in the bottom of a grillproof enamel cast iron pan and roast until the sauce bubbles and begins to caramelize, about 2 minutes.
11. Remove the pan from the oven and place the chicken pieces in a single layer on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining sauce, but leave bare spots to keep the crunch. Sprinkle with mozzarella and fontina.
12. Return to grill until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown, 1 to 1½ minutes. Garnish with the fresh parsley and serve warm.