Perfect chicken parmigiana: MasterChef runner-up Matt Sinclair's parma sliders

Matt Sinclair with his chicken parmigiana sliders.
Matt Sinclair with his chicken parmigiana sliders. Photo: Supplied

How do you improve on the Aussie counter meal classic? Swap schnitty for fried chicken, pop it between a bun, give the napoli sauce a smoky chipotle kick and replace ham with streaky bacon strips, according to Matt Sinclair of Brisbane's 10 Piece Cutlery.

"I am a firm believer you've got to have the chicken, the sauce, the ham of some sort has to be there, and the cheese," says Sinclair.

Sinclair's US-inspired spin on the pub meal favourite includes a southern-style buttermilk coating and slices of melted Monterey Jack – a cheese he discovered while living in Canada: " It's one of those inventions where you can melt the cheese and it doesn't split. " Sinclair suggests steering clear of jalapeno-speckled slices, as the chilli can get lost with the smoky sauce. (Note: havarti or gouda are suitable substitutes).

While he's skipped the chips, the addition of gem lettuce leaves is Sinclair's nod to the traditional side salad. If he's not ordering a "parmy" at a pub in his native Queensland, you'll find him tucking into rump steak with mushroom sauce.

Matt Sinclair's chicken parmigiana sliders with buttermilk fried chicken, streaky bacon, chipotle sauce and Monterey Jack cheese. Recipe and images supplied for Good Food only. Chicken parma sliders

US-inspired buttermilk fried chicken sliders. Photo: Supplied

Matt Sinclair's "Chicken parmy, but better"

Ingredients

1½ cups plain flour

1 tbsp smoked paprika

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1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp dried oregano

300ml buttermilk

3 chicken thighs, halved

canola or vegetable oil, for frying

6 streaky bacon strips

6 slider buns (Sinclair uses 35g oval-shaped buns from Breadtop)

6 tbsp chipotle sauce (see recipe below)

6 slices Monterey Jack cheese

6 little gem lettuce leaves

For the chipotle sauce

30ml olive oil

350g brown onion, finely sliced

½ tbsp salt

1 tbsp cumin seeds, roughly ground

300g whole piquillo peppers (Sinclair recommends Always Fresh brand)

200g tinned diced tomatoes

200g chipotle in adobo sauce (Sinclair uses Carey brand)

125ml sherry vinegar

100g brown sugar

Method

For the chipotle sauce

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over a medium-high heat and saute onions until soft and translucent. Add salt and cumin seeds and stir well to combine.

2. Add peppers, tomato, chipotle, vinegar and sugar and mix until sugar has dissolved.

3. Using a stick blender, blitz until it resembles a napoli sauce. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook sauce until it becomes a rich red colour and is thick enough to coat a spoon (approximately 20 minutes). Adjust seasoning if required.

Makes 1 litre.

For the chicken

1. In a shallow tray, add flour, paprika, ground coriander and oregano and mix well to combine.  In a separate shallow tray, pour in buttermilk.

2. Dip chicken thighs in buttermilk and transfer to flour. Coat evenly in flour and shake off excess. Repeat with the rest of chicken. Repeat coating process one more time.

3. Refrigerate chicken for 30 minutes.

4. Heat a deep fryer filled with canola or vegetable oil to 180C. (Note: chicken can also be shallow fried in a frying pan). Fry chicken in batches of six pieces, for five to six minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towel and season generously with salt.

To assemble the sliders

1. Preheat oven to 220C.

2. Grill bacon until soft.

3. Cut slider buns in half. Spoon one tablespoon of chipotle sauce on the base of each bun. Arrange the bun halves on an oven tray. On top of the chipotle sauce, stack one piece of fried chicken, two pieces of bacon and one slice of cheese. Place the remaining bun halves buns on the tray, cut side facing up. Grill in the oven at 220C, until cheese has melted.

To serve, top each stack with a piece of lettuce and corresponding bun lid.

Makes 6 sliders

Melburnians can sample Matt Sinclair's parma slider at the Parmavana food truck, presented by Latitude Financial Services. The free food truck will pop-up on Wednesday, January 11, at Federation Square noon-3pm and 5pm-8pm; and Thursday, January 12, at Southbank noon-3pm and Southern Cross Station 5pm-8pm.