Thursday, February 11, 2010

I have Chicken!.......Now what?

I don't know why people look at chicken with this mystical expression, but they do. I'm sorry but I must say that cooking chicken isn't exactly the same as finding the Holy Grail. Look people, chicken is NOT complicated. Sure if you don't cook it well you could get food poisoning and puke for a week but hey, no risk no reward! Relax, you're in good hands.

Breaded Chicken Cutlet

In a different post, I showed you how to cook a chicken breast the simple way: The Salad Bar #1: Real Chicken Salad. Step 1 shows you how to cook a chicken breast in some olive oil or spray oil and get it done all the way through. This time we're going to use bread crumbs! Yes people, this is how wild my nights get - deal.

What you'll need:
  • 4 plates (yes 4 plates! they can be paper.)
  • paper towel
  • frying pan
  • tongs or spatula
Step 1: Gentlemen, beat your breasts

Ok, so it sounds a little kinky, but unless you're willing to stand there all night, odds are the chicken breast you have is a bit thick. If you layer it between two pieces of plastic wrap and then hammer it with a meat mallet, you can get a thinner cut. If you buy from a butcher or have a grocery store that rocks, have them do it. I don't have a meat mallet. I just punched it flat.

Yeah.....PUNCHED. It had my knuckles imprinted on it but after it was cooked you couldn't tell. When you have it flat enough, you can stop. If you got the super thin chicken cutlets then you can skip this step.

Step 2: The Egg, The Flour, The Crumbs and The Plates

This is the fun and messy part. As I said, you can use disposable, but please try to be kind to the planet and use something recycled or starch based. It really doesn't take much to wash some extra plates, but if you must take the easy route, please be sensitive to the earth. It's not OUR planet, it's on loan to us from our children.

Crack and scramble the eggs in one plate. Put about a cup of flour*** in the next. Put the breadcrumbs in the other and the last will be for the finished product.

***IMPORTANT!!!! Before we move on I can't stress enough. If you put raw chicken in flour and then put the flour back in it's container, you will contaminate the rest of the flour with salmonella and you could die or get VERY VERY sick! Throw it away. Start with a small amount and if you run out, add more to the plate. Same with the breadcrumbs. When you're done "handling your chicken" (that's what he said...) wash your hands with hot water and soap. If you touch anything with chicken hands you need to wash that too so you don't spread disease.

Take your chicken and dredge it, both sides, through the flour first. Then the egg. Then the breadcrumbs. Shake off the excess and place it in the empty place. Lather. Rinse. Repeat until all of the chicken is done.

Step 3: Fire up the stove

Put some spray oil or about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. You don't want the oil to smoke. If it does, take the pan off and lower the heat. When the heat is lower, put the pan back on the stove. Gas is quicker at this than electric. To test if the oil is hot enough, wet your hand and sprinkle water in the pan. If it pops and sizzles, it's ready.

Add the chicken and cook it until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes depending on thickness. Flip or use the tongs to turn it, then cook the same on the other side.

A word about done-ness: You check a chicken breast the same way you check a steak. Poke it. If there is a lot of give or it feels "mushy", it's not done yet. If there is some resistance, it's medium done. If it's fairly hard to press, it's well done. Another way you can check is by putting it on the cutting board and cutting it down the middle. This is a perfectly valid method. I do it all the time with chicken because I want to make absolutely sure that it's done.

Depending on how much oil you use, this can get a little greasy. Put the finished product on the paper towel to drain a bit.

Step 4: Serve it in style!

You can serve any kind of side with this. Below are some suggestions
  • baked beans
  • chopped spinach (from the frozen section-follow package instructions)
  • steamed broccoli
  • can of corn
  • salad
  • baked or mashed potato (I'll teach you how to do mashed potatoes later ;) )
  • macaroni and cheese
  • peas (& carrots if you like)
For those of you who almost died from having macaroni and cheese with baked beans - MOM :( - stick with a salad....

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