Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Probably the Best Chicken Cutlets

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Probably the Best Chicken Cutlets You'll Ever Have

I know. I know. I probably should have listed this as The. BEST. Chicken. Cutlets. EVER. Better than you will ever have in your whole life!

But you know, I don’t know, Your grandmother or your father or your aunt or your cousin could have amazing chicken cutlets and they SHOULD! I just know that this recipe is a conglomeration of watching my mother, experimenting in college (food wise people…food wise), and binging the Food Network.

My first memory of chicken cutlets is actually not a chicken cutlet memory at all, it's braciole. My mother every so often would make either braciole, or chicken, or dover sole...but honestly the egging breading technique that is seared in my brain is when she made baciole.

My mother would crack a couple of eggs into a bowl, mix with a fork and some milk.  She would dump some 4C Italian Style breadcrumbs onto a paper plate and set up a little station at the dinning room table.

It was a treat for her and she would get, like a pound of the meat, and sit at the dinning room table while watching some show on TV, and dunk the meat in the egg, then the bread crumbs, and put on a plate. She did all the dunking with a fork (the same fork she mixed the eggs with) and would continue until they were all done.  Then she would take the plate to the stove and fry them in a pan with some margarine (not butter but Fleishman's Margarine).

She did this same process with chicken cutlets and Dover sole. She would eat the braciole by herself and sometimes the Dover sole as well. It was her own personal treat, like her saltine and grape jelly snacks, and certain Hershey chocolates.

My first attempt at Chicken Cutlets was in college. I used Italian breadcrumbs and butter...and double breaded them. No flour. No egg. No salt, pepper, garlic.  Just melted butter and Italian breadcrumbs.  They were good but...I could do better.  I made these for several years and only after discovering the Food Network did I make changes (and only after watching many, many, MANY Food Network like shows).

My favorites were Good Eats and the best, BEST cooking competition show will forever and always be the ORIGINAL Iron Chef.  The one filmed in Japan with awesome subtitles and adorable overdubs, judges such as "fortune teller" and the chairman who bites into a yellow pepper. Everything else is a poor substitution. You have not SEEN a cooking show until you watch a chef pull a LIVE octopus out of a tank and disassemble it for eating in an hour!

But I digress.   After many years of butter and breadcrumbs, I finally swapped out the melted butter for eggs and added the flour to the sequence. Flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, cook. I did this for years, and it was good. Was a it great? Meh. It was good and my family liked it, but there was something better, just around the corner and that is what I'm going to share today!

My secret, is a combination of panko (thank you Iron Chef and Food Network), Italian style breadcrumbs, and corn meal.


I first started using corn meal after moving down to NC from NY. I had a weird pull towards it, like somehow because we now lived in the south we should eat more southern type foods (my youngest daughter LOVES grits from being in daycare). It was because of this move that I started making corn bread more regularly and with that came the purchase of corn meal (to make said corn bread).

It was by a happy accident that I started using corn meal in my breading. I needed something to bread some fish and didn't have any breadcrumbs, but I did have corn meal! I found a recipe on Pinterest that called for corn meal and made it for the team. They LOVED it! It had more crunch than typical breadcrumbs and slightly more flavor than panko.

I realized shortly after that that I could mix all three of them together to make the perfect crunchy, tasty bread for my chicken cutlets. The reason it works is the different sizes of the breading medium.  You see, corn meal is fine like flour, bread crumbs (Italian style at that) are slightly bigger and add extra flavor from the seasonings, and panko, are large and super crunchy when fried. 

This combo is the winning ticket. When mixed together and then applied to a chicken cutlet (or anything that needs to be breaded) it adds crunch from different sizes and it adds flavors from the different ingredients (the corn meal adds something subtle and the Italian style's in the name). It really is pretty good. Probably the best I've ever had, and my family (or so they tell me).

Probably the Best Chicken Cutlet Recipe
1.5 lbs chicken breasts, thinly cut
2 eggs
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of Italian style bread crumbs
1/2 cup Panko
1/2 cup corn meal
butter and olive oil

1. Set up a breading station. Use three shallow dishes in a row and a plate or platter to hold the finished cutlets.
2. Put flour in the first bowl, season with salt and pepper (and maybe some garlic powder) to taste, and mix around.
3. Crack the two eggs in the next bowl, add salt and pepper to taste along with the squeeze of lemon juice. Mix with a fork (Tip: I mix the eggs in a regular bowl and then pour into the shallow dish otherwise I make a mess).
4. Combine the three breading crumb things (bread crumbs, panko, corn meal) into the last dish and mix together.
5. Now we bread!  Coat each piece of chicken in flour (shake off excess), then egg, then breadcrumb mixture (I like to press the mix into the chicken, gently patting it then flipping it over to pat the other side), one at a time and place on the plate or platter at the end.
6. Continue flour, egg, breading, each piece until all are done.
7. Now cook the chicken.  This can be done via pan frying or baking (although I usually do a combo of the two, depending on how "thin" my chicken is cut and how many pieces of chicken I'm doing). Put some olive oil and butter in a skillet (I use cast iron, but have also done this in a non stick-so you do you), and heat over medium heat. When the butter is melty, add the chicken a couple of pieces at a time (don't crowd the pan).
8. Cook on one side until golden brown and crispy, flip to cook the other side until golden brown and crispy. Depending on size of cutlet and how many you're doing, you can place them on a platter when done, or on a sheet pan in a warming oven (200-350 degrees).


I hope those who try the recipe enjoy it.   I would love to hear some of your favorite uses to chicken cutlets or favorite dishes for chicken cutlets (or breaded anything!). I'm always looking to expand my recipe box and add to my weekly menu!

See you next Wednesday!


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