Quarantine Cuisine: How Kost chef Morgan Bellis makes his cheesy chicken parm
We’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what they cook up using basic pantry supplies while they self-isolate at home
Like many of us, chef Morgan Bellis is confined to his home. We asked the social-distancing chef to whip us up a meal with ingredients he already had on hand. His recipe: some cheesy oven-baked chicken parm.
Transform your leftovers and fridge scraps with chef Morgan Bellis’s cheesy chicken parmesan recipe. This dish was born out of the desire to clean out his fridge without wasting any food. His crafty wife, Kerstin, made a game out of the exercise. “She grabbed a bunch of items from the fridge and declared it my Black Box Challenge: Quarantine Edition,” he says. Her only rule was that it couldn’t be too cheffy. “She knows me too well,” Bellis says. “The friendly challenge definitely helped me take my mind off current Covid-19 worries.”
Bellis says that he learned to cook from his mom—but not in the way that you’d think. “She always told us she was never a good cook, but the type of person who could manage to burn water,” says Bellis. To this day, she jokingly swears that Bellis got into cooking to simply survive.
This Black Box dish is an ode to Bellis’s childhood. “It’s to bring the happy back,” he says. “Even though my mom wasn’t the best cook, it never stopped her from trying to make new things. Two of our family favourites were her lasagna and her chicken parm.” Those two recipes showcased his mom’s resourcefulness in transforming leftovers. Bellis’s favourite part of his creation is the salsa addition, which he says adds some welcome acidity to an otherwise rich dish.
Judge Kerstin approved of the dish. “See, you don’t have to chef it up all the time!” she said. “Now, can I get more cheese?”
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
100g of shredded cheese (Bellis used Italian blend, but cheddar or mozzarella work, too)
1 medium yellow pepper, sliced
6 button mushrooms, sliced
100g of salsa
150g of passata or tomato sauce
Fresh cherry tomatoes (or whatever tomatoes you have on hand)
2 shallots or 1 medium onion, diced
Minced garlic to taste (Bellis recommends the jarred kind for easy prep)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°F and slice your vegetables.
Sear the mushrooms on high heat with a bit of oil until they start to brown, then toss in the yellow peppers and season it all with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until peppers just start to soften.
Layer the sautéed mushrooms and peppers in the bottom of an oven-proof casserole dish.
Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Then, pour two teaspoons of olive oil in the same pan you used for the veggies, and sear the chicken until it’s golden-brown (about 3 to 5 minutes). Then flip it over and sear the other side.
Place the seared chicken on top of the vegetables.
Now it’s time to make the sauce. Add about 1 teaspoon of oil to the same pan and sweat the shallots (or onions) until they’re soft and translucent.
Add in the sliced tomatoes, cherry or otherwise. Season with salt and pepper, and add garlic to taste.
As the tomatoes start to break down, pour in the salsa and the passata.
Once this mixture is warmed through, remove from the heat and layer on top of the chicken and vegetables.
Place the casserole dish into your pre-heated oven and cook for approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is golden-brown and bubbling.
Serve it immediately and enjoy. A side salad is nice, but not necessary.
Know what is necessary? Wine. That’s what.