Publican James Wirth and his business partners are the owners of more than 5 Sydney pubs including, The Norfolk, The Carrington, The Forresters, Queenie’s, The Abercrombie and The Oxford Tavern.
Named one of Sydney’s Top 100 Most Influential People in 2012, James knows a thing or two about creating the ultimate drink and dine experience.
In the cookbook, This Could Get Messy, James presents a collection of more than 100 dishes and 30 drinks that will help you create pub-style food at any hour of the day.
In this blog we ask James 5 questions about food, DIY and creating pub-style meals at home. We then share a delicious chicken parmigiana recipe from This Could Get Messy.
Baja Fish Tacos, one of the hundreds of tasty recipes in This Could Get Messy
5 Questions With James Wirth
1. What is your favourite pub meal?
Ohhh! Tough question, but I can’t go past a classic chicken parmigiana. As far as I’m concerned, you can do no wrong with melted cheese and fried chicken.
2. Is presentation as important as flavour?
They’re a team really, but flavour wins. No point dressing something up that tastes like dirt.
3. Do any of your pubs grow produce like herbs or veggies?
We unfortunately don’t have the space to grow our own veggies and our herb adventures have not ended well. We source all our produce from the best suppliers around Sydney, but it takes continual monitoring to get the best stuff.
4. Do you DIY?
I made my daughter a dollhouse for Christmas last year. I took me about 2 weeks longer than it should have and I wanted to give up a few times but got there in the end. That’s as handy as I get I’m afraid.
5. Tips for creating a pub vibe at home when entertaining?
Music up loud, lights down low, tap a keg, shake some margaritas, smoke some meat and you are done!
This Could Get Messy by James Wirth, $45
Parmaggedon: A Chicken Parmigiana Recipe
Serve this chicken parmigiana with a side of slaw and enjoy an epic pub-inspired feast
When the ice caps have melted, the carbon credits have been spent and meteors are falling from the sky, this is the schnitzel we’ll be eating. The parmigiana to end all parmigianas: chicken, ham, cheese, sauce and sobrasada colliding together, ending all hope of getting that belt back on when you’re done.
Serve with a side of Quick Slaw.
Preparation 45 minutes
Cooking 1 hour
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
200 g (7 oz/2 cups) grated cheddar cheese
65 g (21/2 oz/1/2 cup) grated mozzarella cheese
150 g (51/2 oz) sobrasada (soft, cured, spreadable spicy Spanish salami; see glossary)
finely shredded flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, to garnish
225 g (8 oz/11/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
3 free-range eggs, lightly beaten with a drop of milk
120 g (41/4 oz/2 cups) panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 capsicums (peppers), one red and one yellow, finely diced
2 x 400 g (14 oz) tins chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
a few lemon thyme sprigs
1 teaspoon raw (demerara) sugar
To make the schnitzels, lay a chicken breast on a chopping board, ready to ‘butterfly’ it. Using a steady hand, hold a long, sharp knife along the side of the chicken. Without cutting all the way through, use a sawing action to cut the chicken almost all the way through to the other side, leaving a ‘hinge’ attached. Open the chicken out, place a sheet of plastic wrap on top, then lightly bash the chicken with a rolling pin to flatten it as evenly as possible, to a 1–1.5 cm (½–5∕8 inch) thickness. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
Dust the flattened chicken breasts with the flour, dip each fillet into the beaten egg mixture, then dip into the panko crumbs. Set aside, covered with plastic wrap, on a tray in the refrigerator until ready to fry. The schnitzels can be crumbed up to 1 day ahead.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium–low heat. Gently sweat the onion and garlic for 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and soft. Add the capsicums and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme sprigs and sugar. Season with a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then simmer for 30 minutes, or until reduced and thickened to a sauce consistency.
When the sauce is nearly ready, fill a deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan one-third full of vegetable oil. Heat over medium heat until it reaches 180ºC (350ºF) when tested with a cooking thermometer, or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden brown in 15 seconds.
Meanwhile, preheat the grill (broiler) to medium–high.Remove the crumbed chicken pieces from the fridge. Working in batches, gently lower the schnitzels into the hot oil and fry each batch for 5–6 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Remove and drain on paper towel.
Arrange all the fried chicken schnitzels on a baking tray. Top each one with some Napoli(ish) sauce, a handful of the grated cheeses and a few blobs of sobrasada. Grill for 6–8 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and started to bubble. Serve hot, garnished with parsley, with the slaw on the side, and hot fries if desired.
Preparation 15 minutes
¼ white cabbage
juice of ½ lemon
60 g (2¼ oz/¼ cup) whole-egg mayonnaise
4 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
3–4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
sea salt flakes, for seasoning
Using a mandoline or a food processor, slice the cabbages as thinly as possible.
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the lemon juice and mayonnaise. Add the cabbage, spring onion and parsley and toss until well combined. Season to taste with salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper and serve.
Recipes and images from This Could Get Messy by James Wirth (Murdoch Books) $45 available now in all good bookstores and online.