How To Make The Perfect Teesside Parmo At Home

17 Apr 2020

Fellow Teessiders, if you aren't able to get your hands on a precious takeaway parmo for whatever reason, I've got the solution for you! At the time of writing this, we're in lockdown because of the nasty virus, and I'm all the way in Trimdon Colliery, a pit village where parmos are pretty much non-existant. But being a born and bred Teessider, the need for a really decent parmo just runs in my veins, so myself and Matthew set about making our very own fakeaway Teesside parmo, using my past experience as a cook and the recipe set out by Parmorama! (Scroll to the bottom if you want to read the recipe instead of my waffle.)

What is a parmo?

If you're from across the pond or even from an area of England that isn't classed as 'the North', you may not have actually heard of a parmo before. If that's the case, it's totally understandable because this is a delicacy that is really only found in Teesside - the teeny area of the North East that I live in. It originates back to World War II, when a United States chef was wounded and brought to a UK hospital for treatment. He moved to Middlesbrough in 1958, opened a restaurant on Linthorpe Road and created the iconic Boro dish.

Just like the Cornish pasty and Irish cream, I like to think that the parmo has protected status to Teesside, because nowhere does a parmo quite like Teesside. To put it simply, it's a breaded and fried cutlet of chicken, topped with bechamel sauce and melted cheddar cheese. It's received wide criticism with people blaming it for obesity in children on Teesside, but let's face it - the parmo has been around for over 60 years. I'm not sure it's going to be abolished any time soon!

Since its creation all those years ago, the humble parmo has come a long way and has lots of variations, including the popular hot shot style and doner meat, for the indulgent folk amongst us. There's also the pork parmo, plus veggie and vegan options too, so no one is forgotten about in the world of parmos!

What makes the perfect parmo?

Like I mentioned, there are three basic elements to a parmo - the chicken, the bechamel sauce and the cheese. Those are your main ingredients to making a perfect parmo, but each one has particular characteristics that make the overall parmo as jaw-droppingly beautiful as it can be.

To start, the chicken needs to be pounded until it's about half an inch thick all over. You want a gorgeous, level thickness throughout so that you get an even cook. Plus, whacking the meat with a mallet (or a rolling pin in our case) makes the meat so much more tender. Seriously, your chicken will be so soft and juicy! Before frying, you also want to coat your meat in real breadcrumbs. Sure, you can use golden breadcrumbs from the supermarket, but nothing compares to the crisp crunch that you get from real breadcrumbs that you've grated yourself. It's extra effort, but so worth it.

With the bechamel sauce, you need it to be super smooth, so don't give up on that whisking! Stick at it until your bechamel sauce has no lumps and the whisk leaves those sexy glide marks throughout the mixture. I know you know what I'm talking about! You also want to season it with salt, pepper and just a smidge of garlic powder, otherwise your bech will look lovely, but taste a bit like flour. Make sure you taste it as you go and when you hit that sweet spot, let it cool to become even thicker.

Finally, parmos have a scrumptious layer of cheese on top, but not just any kind of cheese. You want something that's got that classic orange-yellow tint to it, so when it melts, it looks exactly like you've just opened the takeaway box lid. We used a mix of cheddar and red Leicester, which resulted in that look that all of us Teessiders know and love. You want to get it under the grill so that the cheese melts without disturbing the bechamel sauce or cooking the chicken further, and getting all gooey and gorgeous.

Equipment you will need:
Cling film
Sharp kitchen knife
Tenderising hammer/rolling pin
Three clean cereal bowls
Large saucepan
Frying pan
Two oven trays

For the parmos, you will need:
Chicken breasts
60g plain flour, sieved
60g unsalted butter
500ml full milk
Salt, pepper and garlic powder
Sunflower oil
100g plain flour in one cereal bowl
Grated breadcrumbs in one cereal bowl (around 40g per breast)
2 beaten eggs in one cereal bowl
Grated cheese (we used cheddar and red Leicester - around 70g per parmo)

  1. Use a sharp kitchen knife to cut away the fat and veins from your chicken breasts.
  2. Spread out a sheet of cling film on to your countertop, then place your chicken on top. Add another sheet of cling film over them and use your tenderising hammer or rolling pin (or other bashing device) to pound your chicken until it's around half an inch thick. Set them to one side.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over a gentle heat. Once it has melted, add in the 60g of plain flour and whisk until a paste is formed. Keep whisking for around 3 minutes - the mixture should almost start to ball up.
  4. Turn up the heat on your hob to medium and gradually add in the full milk, whisking thoroughly after each addition. You should see it start to thicken and bubble, turning into bechamel sauce.
  5. Season the bechamel with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste, then whisk thoroughly once more until you're satisfied with the thickness, then remove from the heat.
  6. Preheat your oven to 200c/180c fan.
  7. Pour in enough sunflower oil to shallow fry your chicken breasts, then heat on a medium-low temperature.
  8. One by one, coat your chicken breasts in plain flour, then dip into the beaten egg, then coat in breadcrumbs, before laying into the oil to fry. Once the bottom has fried, flip the chicken over to fry the other side. The breadcrumbs should be golden and crisp. You can cut into your chicken to make sure that it isn't pink and that the juices run clear too. Once cooked, move each breast on to an oven tray.
  9. Pop your fried chicken breasts into the oven for around 3 minutes, just to make sure that they are cooked through. Then remove them from the oven and switch the settings to grill.
  10. Take a tablespoon of bechamel sauce and coat the tops of your chicken breasts. You want to be generous here, so add more bechamel until you're happy with the thickness, and smooth out with the back of a spoon until the coverage is even.
  11. Top each one with a healthy helping of cheese, then pop the chicken under the grill until the cheese is melted and gooey.
And voila! Your homemade fakeaway parmos are complete! Of course, you want to serve up your parmos in any way that you fancy, but the classic pairing is a side of chips and garlic sauce. If you want to push the boat out, add a bit of salad or creamed cabbage and you're good to go! If you want to push the boat out even further, throw away the oars and do a naked dance on the deck, you could add toppings - try out pepperoni, bolognese or ham and pineapple if you're so inclined.

As I said, this is a bit of a messy meal to make, but it's fun to do and a great alternative if you can't get your hands on the greasy goodness that is a takeaway parmo. I promise you, they'll go down a total treat and you can add more excitement by playing with toppings (which is a great thing to help keep kids occupied).

Have you ever had a parmo? Would you try making your own?

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