tasty chicken cutlets for your mouth.

This is a post about chicken cutlets. Veggie-sauruses, graze on.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m a huge fan of Jewel Staite’s food blog Happy Opu. Jewel is best known for playing Kaylee on the late lamented Firefly, but as she is only too happy to inform you, when not playing adorable/sexy-awesome chick engineers she eats literally everything she lays her eyes on and drinks all the wine. This information only makes me love her more. Today I’m sharing with you a Jewel Staite Approved method for consuming chicken.

The larger recipe from which I drew this chicken cutlet recipe is not actually for chicken, it’s for veal. But, you see, I hate veal. I hate it a lot. I don’t care that it’s totally immoral and gross (well. i care a little.), I care that it tastes like ass. On more than one occasion I have eaten it unawares and wondered why I was eating shitty, flavorless steak. (Because veal is for the mofuckin’ birds, that’s why.) Anyway, Jewel wholeheartedly endorses the use of chicken in this recipe, so it immediately went into my bookmarks as “chicken cutlets.” No judging.

Another thing you’ll find if you read the recipe is that it’s not so much a recipe for veal chicken cutlets as it is a composed dish with lots of moving parts, one of which is a fried cutlet. (Lol, food with moving parts.) I didn’t grow up eating composed dishes with lots of moving parts. I grew up eating one-pot meals or Real American meals with a meat, a veggie or two, and maybe a starch. Or another vegetable. So while I enjoy composed meals, making them doesn’t come naturally to me. The end result given by the recipe is a pile of pasta topped with a cutlet topped with a fried egg topped with a small salad, and I’d rather just eat those things separately.

I didn’t do that, though. I made the cutlets. And they were fuckin’ ace. I’m going to reproduce the recipe here for you and talk you through the cooking of it, even though it’s not my recipe, because … well, look at it. Jewel Staite is most likely a wonderful woman with many virtues, but writing recipes clearly? Not one of them.

So, you’ll need:
4 thin chicken cutlets
Panko (Japanese bread crumbs which you can find at any supermarket, fucking Progresso makes panko)
2 large garlic cloves
Fresh thyme
Pecorino romano
Kosher salt
Coarse-ground pepper
Flour
2 – 3 eggs
Olive oil

When you fry stuff, which I rarely do because I hate/fear/am sick of wearing frying oil, you want to have everything prepared to go before you start cooking or else you’ll be seriously fucked. You need your chicken to go from dredge to dredge to pan. So start by preparing everything. This chicken uses a three-layer dredging technique: first you dredge in flour, then egg, then breading. I don’t know why you start in flour, and if someone can explain I’d love to learn. I’m doing it because I’ve made these twice in four days and they come perfect every time, and if that means I dredge in flour first for no earthly reason other than Jewel says to, then I’m dredging in flour first for no earthly reason other than Jewel says to.

You’ve got your chicken. I get my dad to cut mine because it is his job. If your dad isn’t a butcher, I can’t help you. Take your plain chicken cutlets and salt and pepper them to taste. You can do both sides if you like, but I find that one side is sufficient flavour and doing both sides can lead to too much salt. Make sure you rub in your salt and pepper! Massage that chicken like it’s paying for it. Once you have sufficiently violated it, you can move on to making the breading.

The breading is a very simple mix of Panko, freshly-grated pecorino romano cheese, garlic, and thyme. I use a ratio of about 1/2 cup cheese:~2 cups Panko, but that’s almost totally eyeballed, so feel free to play with it and see what you get. 1/2 cup may not sound like a lot of cheese, but buddy, grating pecorino romano sucks so much that you will be more than comfortable stopping after 1/2 cup. With that amount of cheese + crumbs I use two very large cloves of garlic, minced, and enough thyme. What’s enough thyme, you ask? Long enough to get the chicken cooked! Har har har. Okay but seriously, start stripping stems of thyme into your cheese+bread+garlic and stop when it looks like enough. Helpful recipe is helpful. (Seriously-really-this-time-I-promise, you can tell by looking if there’s enough thyme such that every cutlet will get a little in its breading. Use your noggin. (I can’t believe I just used the word noggin. What is this, Leave It to Beaver?)) You could theoretically play with the fresh herb you use, which would drastically change the character of this dish, but Jewel said to use thyme and it’s delicious with thyme so I’m using thyme.

Finally, the eggs. 2 should do you for four cutlets. Jewel suggests mixing a splash of water into your egg wash, and I did actually find it helped the eggs adhere to the floured cutlets when I tried it without the water, so you should add a little water. Just a splash. Faucet’s fine.

Preparation! Start by heating your oil over a medium flame. I use olive oil, which has gotten me laughed at by Southerners multiple times, and requires a longer cooking time for the chicken than other oils might. (But it’s tasty and it’s better for you, so =P on them.) Olive oil has a low-ish smoke point, so watch it while the heat’s on. The oil is hot enough to fry things in when the surface looks funky. If it’s already smoking, then yes, it is hot enough, but you shouldn’t let it get that far. Because my dad said so. Another way to tell if oil is ready is to sprinkle some breading in. If it sizzles, oil’s ready.

The cooking process itself is relatively painless (unless you’re me, tend to forget things like “metal conducts heat,” and burn your fingers on the regular): chicken in flour, then egg, then breading, then oil. I found that eight minutes a side for thicker cutlets and six for thinner, with two flips per side, was a good amount of cooking time. Just, you know, be careful, man. Hot oil gets everywhere, and it hurts, and I really hate frying shit. I hate it almost as much as I love eating fried shit. Make sure you drain your chicken on some paper towels to get the excess oil, and if anyone knows how to do this without the first cutlets getting slightly soggy, I would welcome your tips.

So that’s it. Seriously. I almost didn’t share this with you guys because it’s so so easy and I was kind of embarrassed to just be figuring it out now. The thing is, though, my mom is allergic to yeast, so any kind of preparation involving bread crumbs, wine, or beer is totally outside my experience. We’ve been frying chicken in homemade cornflake crumbs and subbing broth for wine in recipes for over a decade with no ill effects (and yes, that fried chicken recipe is forthcoming). So this recipe was kind of revelatory. I ate these cutlets with fresh steamed green beans, and I made a big stack of then to take to work in sandwiches (and for the record, one of these cutlets on bread with a ton of fresh avocado and some sriracha mayo is the shiznit). I hope you enjoy them also!

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About Sara

I like to talk about media, food, and gender.
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6 Responses to tasty chicken cutlets for your mouth.

  1. Caleb says:

    I don’t know about Jewel’s reasons but I dredge in flour first because otherwise, the egg doesn’t stick to the chicken and that beautiful crust you’ve got going may crumble away in the hot oil. I’d recommend adding some sumac if you can find some to the crust. Sumac is my favorite flavor. I’m intrigued that you used olive oil. I’d never have thought of that.

    • Sara says:

      That’s a great explanation, and a great tip! I’m familiar with sumac as a concept but I don’t know if I’ve ever had it. Do you know if it’s the main flavouring in zaatar?

      I use olive oil because I’m Sicilian and my entire life we didn’t use any other shortening, ever. So while I’ve tried to diversify my oils for various purposes, for a lot of things I just go back to what I know.

  2. Dan Fox says:

    can confirm it’s egg whites first. You may want to add a little corn starch to your flour too

    • Sara says:

      I see we have dissent in the ranks. So your approach is egg whites then breading, no flour at all? And why would you suggest adding corn starch?

  3. Dylan says:

    Another way to approach breading if you have to avoid yeast or other trappings of bread is to use almond flour in place of breadcrumbs; it comes out less crunchy, but I like the flavor.

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