Friday, August 22, 2008

The kindest cutlet of all

Here’s a basic recipe for a stunning dish. It does involve frying (what good stuff doesn’t?). Alright, that’s a rhetorical question – don’t get your knickers in a knot.

I’ve seen chicken cutlets made in pretty much every way possible on Food Network and some of the other channels where I find cooking shows. What I did was to mix and match the elements of this dish that pleased me most.

It seems rare to see a TV cook brine anything. In our house we have gotten to the point of brining every piece of poultry or pork we prepare. In the end it just makes for moister/more forgiving meat. If you need a primer on the process, look at my post of August 11, 2008.

I made this two nights ago and plan to repeat it tonight, using pork chops I found in the sale bin yesterday morning at King Soopers. I don’t think there is any variation between the chick version and the pork, but if there is it’ll come to mind as I relate the battle plan.

I have one confession to make. Several weeks ago Peter put parmesan on my shopping list. Regrettably, Safeway didn’t have the reggiano kind, so I bought another brand. Turned out the one I bought was on the Cook’s Illustrated list of “not recommended.” The brand is Bel Gioso. It doesn’t taste bad, it just doesn’t taste like the expensive stuff. So I’ve been using it in dishes where it is more or less a background element.

I didn’t tell Peter which kind of cheese I used for the chicken and yet he loved it.

Breaded chicken cutlets w/parmesan cheese

2 chicken breast halves, skinless and boneless
black pepper
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
¾ cup parmesan, grated
1 egg lightly beaten
1 tbsp milk
vegetable oil
1 tbsp dried parsley

After brining the chicken dry it with paper towels but do not rinse it. Place each breast half between sheets of plastic wrap and pound it flat – at least 1/3” if not ¼”. Sprinkle both sides with black pepper, but don’t add any more salt. ‘Cause if you do, you risk over saltiness. It’s according to your taste, in other words.

Set up three bowls and a plate on the countertop. In one bowl lightly beat the egg with the milk. In a second bowl place ½ cup flour. In the third go the breadcrumbs, parsley, and parmesan, all of which should be thoroughly tossed together.

Dredge each piece in flour, shaking off excess, then in egg, and finally in crumb and cheese. Press the stuff firmly into the meat and carefully place the chicken on the plate (without any toweling). Repeat with the second piece of chicken. Place the plate uncovered in the fridge for an hour if you have the time. If not, 15-30 minutes will probably be fine. You want the coating to dry some so that it adheres well to the meat.

When it’s time to cook, heat 1/8” oil in a heavy skillet large enough to hold the pieces of chicken without them overlapping. When the oil is very hot, add the chicken. Cook on the first side until the top edges of the pieces turn opaque and it's golden on the bottom. Turn the chicken over and cook for exactly two minutes. Nick one corner of the thickest portion. If you see any pink, let it go exactly ONE more minute. Set aside on paper towels for 2-3 minutes.

One final thing: if you cut your own chicken off the bone, you probably have the “tenders” attached as was the case for me. Carefully separate them and trim out the bit of tendon you’ll see on the underside. After that, simply prepare them the same way with the exception that they don’t require pounding.

Oh, one more final thing: for the pork chops, if they are on the bone, remove it. Do pound them as with the bird.

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