Chicken alla Sorrentina is always topped with eggplant and melted mozzarella. But what does that have to do with Sorrento? Sorrento is in the region of Campania, where the best mozzarella comes from. However, in researching the names of dishes, especially where a locality appears in the name, the choice seems to be driven more by nostalgia and honoring one's place of birth.
4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
All-purpose flour, for dredging
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small eggplant (about 12 ounces total), sliced lengthwise into 8 slices
1 cup dry white wine
4 slices ham (about 2 ounces total)
1 cup marinara sauce
6 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice open chicken breasts crosswise to butterfly. Season chicken with the salt. Spread the flour on a plate. Lightly dredge chicken in flour, tapping off the excess.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil. When the butter has melted, add the chicken and lightly brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate. Increase heat to medium and add eggplant to skillet. Brown eggplant on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
3. Discard oil in skillet and set over medium high heat. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. When the butter is melted, pour in the white wine and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the wine is simmering rapidly, then lay the chicken breasts back in one layer. Lay a slice of ham over each chicken breast. Dollop about 2 tablespoons marinara on top of each piece of ham. Drop the remaining marinara in the spaces between the chicken to make the sauce. Layer the sliced cheese on top of the sauce. Sprinkle the grated cheese over top. Bake until chicken is cooked through and cheese is browned and bubbly, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Excerpted from Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich. Copyright © 2011 by Lidia Bastianich. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.