The only place to find a 'proper' northern Yorkshire delicacy

A 'hotshot parmo' at Il Mulino, Stokesley
A 'hotshot parmo' at Il Mulino, Stokesley -Credit:Teesside Live

I recently had the pleasure of trying a unique Yorkshire delicacy, the parmo, and I must say, I wish it was available everywhere. My curiosity for the dish piqued back in 2007 when I visited Middlesbrough.

Despite spending five days there, I never got around to tasting a parmo. Instead, my meals alternated between Sassari, a charming, now-closed Sardinian restaurant, and The Massala, an equally delightful old-school curry house. However, the intriguing concept of the parmo and its complex history have stayed with me ever since.

The parmo is essentially a breaded chicken cutlet that's deep-fried and topped with bechamel sauce and usually cheddar cheese. Interestingly, despite its name, there's no actual parmesan involved. It's actually a descendant of the American-Italian dish, chicken parmesan, previously reported by Yorkshire Live.

READ MORE Mum died during Turkey weight loss surgery she 'so desperately wanted'

The creation of the parmo is credited to Nicos Harris, a Greek-American navy chef who was wounded off the coast of France during World War Two. After receiving treatment at a hospital in Middlesbrough, he decided to settle down in the industrial town in North Yorkshire.

Harris opened a restaurant in Middlesbrough called The American Grill, where he invented the parmo, drawing inspiration from the American-Italian chicken parmesan. This dish itself is a fusion of the aubergine parmesan from Southern Italy and the breaded chicken cutlet from Milan.

Whether Nicos' creation was a product of inventive genius or simply a result of not being able to find the right ingredients for a traditional chicken parmesan, we can't say. However, his dish, known as the parmo, has become a sensation in Teesside, with one pub, The Ship in Stockton-on-Tees, offering 27 different variations.

Despite its popularity in Teesside, the parmo remains largely unknown elsewhere. You might stumble upon it in a trendy cafe or at a hip food festival, but you're unlikely to find it in the takeaways or pubs of Todmorden. Inspired by Nicos, who may have been trying to recreate a taste of home in a foreign land, I decided to try my hand at making a parmo. Having previously made chicken parmesans from scratch, I thought, how hard could it be?

Aside from the hassle of cutting, pounding, seasoning, flouring, egging and breadcrumbing several chicken breasts, it wasn't too difficult. I must confess, I used a premade jar of bechamel sauce, a shortcut I vow not to take again. Traditionally, the parmo is deep-fried, but mindful of my expanding waistline, I've always avoided buying a deep fat fryer. If you baste your cutlets with enough oil, they'll crisp up nicely in the oven.

YorkshireLive scribbler Dave couldn't find any parmos in Todmorden so he made some at home
Homemade chicken parmos -Credit:Dave Himelfield

About 25 minutes into cooking, spoon on the bechamel and grated cheese (I opted for Red Leicester for its vibrant colour) and return to the oven until the cheese and bechamel start to bubble. A parmo is typically accompanied by chips and a side salad, which, after a night on the town, often finds its way into the bin untouched. Yet for those seeking a more refined experience, it pairs just as splendidly with roast potatoes or perhaps patatas bravas.

So what was the verdict from a parmo novice?

Initially, expectations were set for an unremarkable, downmarket take on a classic chicken parmesan. However, the reality was a revelation, prompting an astonished, "where have you been all my life? ".

The combination of crispy breadcrumb coating and succulent, flattened (courtesy of a rolling pin) seasoned chicken surpasses any kiev or schnitzel out there. The indulgent bechamel sauce, subtly infused with nutmeg, and a generous blanket of melted cheese transformed this simple breaded cutlet into a dish rivalling the finest chicken parmesans.

Admittedly, had I tried a hastily thrown together parmo from a less reputable takeaway in the Boro, my impressions might have been different. But when made with attention and care, the homemade parmos I created were nothing short of stellar.

There's a chance that the mere mention of 'Middlesbrough' or 'Teesside' in relation to the parmo could provoke some snobbery. Frankly, the area isn't famed for its gastronomic offerings. Nevertheless, this delightful gastronomic mishap deserves recognition far beyond Yorkshire, indeed across the whole of Britain.