They sit in the closet, gathering dust.

But I cannot part with these shoes. I had a pair like them in 7th grade. (“PLEASE don’t break your ankle,” my mom implored.) I bought this version circa 1998 when the chunky platform made a brief comeback. (“PLEASE don’t break your neck,” my husband begged.)

I haven’t worn them in years; decades, if I’m honest. But I cannot set them aside. In my retro-loving mind, I’m convinced they’ll emerge again.

“Retro.” Webster’s defines it as “relating to, reviving or being the styles and especially the fashions of the past:  fashionably nostalgic or old-fashioned. (A ‘retro’ look.)”

It’s a fine definition, but I think it falls short. Sure, “retro” speaks to the fashionista. But it also speaks to the cook.

Consider last night’s dinner:

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Chicken parm, sauced and served with a side of spaghetti. It was easy, old-fashioned and a comforting end to the long week. It reminded me of childhood dinners and the quick casseroles I put together when the kids were little.

A dish from the past — with some tiny tweaks to make it modern.

Maybe someone can do the same for those shoes hiding in my closet.

Retro Chicken Parm

So this isn’t truly chicken “Parmesan” — I used fresh mozzarella in place of the Parmesan cheese. But the idea is the same: Breaded chicken cutlets fried ’til golden brown, then baked under a cheesy, tomatoey sauce. Use a high-quality jarred sauce if you’re stretched for time, or make your own. You can make this dish in stages, frying up the chicken ahead of dinner, then finishing it off 15 minutes before serving.

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, butterflied then cut in half and pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 jar good quality marinara sauce or 2 cups homemade
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper:

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In a pie plate or other flat dish, whisk the egg with a splash of water. Season with salt and pepper:

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In another pie plate or dish, combine the breadcrumbs, oregano and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.

Dip half the chicken into the egg wash, then into the breadcrumbs. You should have a light coating on your meat.

Place the chicken into the hot oil and saute on one side for 2 1/2 minutes. Flip the meat over and saute another 1 1/2 minutes, or until the chicken is nicely golden:

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Place the chicken in a single layer in a greased casserole dish. Repeat the breading and browning with the rest of your chicken breasts, adding a couple more tablespoons of olive oil to the saute pan if necessary.

When all the chicken is in your casserole dish, sprinkle some mozzarella over each piece:

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Cover with the tomato sauce. Top with the rest of the mozzarella. Sprinkle with a bit more dried oregano and a few grinds of black pepper:

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Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and slightly colored, and the sauce is bubbling.

Serve immediately … as is or over pasta. This feeds four people quite nicely.

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