Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Chicken Fingers Plus, AKA the Cutlet

Chicken Fingers only go so far in life. They are easy to make, but if you remember the eighties (or, gulp, even the nineties) you probably feel a little silly eating them for dinner. This is where the cutlet comes in. Same stuff, different appearance. And you get to bang the heck out of them with a hammer! Once you have made the cutlet, it can be used a variety of ways. Today I will describe the basic chicken cutlet recipe. I will also reveal the secret of Male Martha's "instant parm" recipe, which only adds two more ingredients and one more pot. If you time it well, you can make the whole recipe, including the parm, in about one hour, which includes 1/2 hour of actual work. The only ingredient thats not normally sitting around the house is Panko, which is available many places (see below).


Chicken breasts, skinless, boneless and whole (one to two packages; 6-8 breasts)
Milk (enough to have the chicken sit in)
1 egg, beaten
Kosher salt
Pepper (optional)
Panko (Japanese bread crumbs: available throughout NYC and likely everywhere else, too)
Parmesan cheese
Corn meal (white or yellow)
Canola oil
Olive oil
Ball of mozzarella cheese

Pasta to serve with meal (thinner pasta cooks faster, so linguine is always good)
32 ounces of simple tomato sauce (I like Jerry's if I have no homemade available)


Large skillet for frying
Plate covered in paper towels
2 bowls: one for holding chicken, milk, egg and salt mixture and the other for breading
Tongs (not necessary but they really help)
Metal Spatula
Large pot for boiling pasta
Good Knife
Roasting or baking pan to hold chicken for baking.


Fill the large pot halfway up with water and set on the back burner to boil. Add one teaspoon of salt or so for each quart of water. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking. If it starts to boil before you are ready change heat to low and cover. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Chicken breasts should be whole. Flip them over and you will see a small membrane. Cut the membrane (not the meat) and separate. It almost looks like a mitt. Then flip the breast back so that the shiny end (skin side) is on top. Take the meat tenderizer, and pound the meat with the flat side until it is all about 1/3" thick. The evenness is important. Don't be shy.

Mix egg in bowl. Add milk and mix together. Add about 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste (I would not add more than 1/4 teaspoon). Add pounded chicken breasts to cover (add more milk as necessary) and set aside in refrigerator.

Mix together approximately equal parts of panko and cornmeal. If you want "Parm" add 1/2 of a part of grated parmesan cheese (it helps to use the good stuff and not Kraft). Add enough salt that you can taste it a bit. Add a drop of pepper. Add about 1/4" of oil (half olive and half canola) to the skillet and heat on high. When its hot, you're ready to go.

Dredge breasts in bread crumb mix and coat well. Place in oil and leave room. If you don't, you'll get greasy chicken. Let fry till cooked on the sides (see photo) and then flip using tongs. Cook on other side till brown (you can pick up corner with the tongs to see how its doing). Place on paper towels. The cutlets are now done.

To make easy parm, place the cutlets in the baking pan. Cover the cutlets completely with sauce. Add mozzarella slices to the top and place, uncovered in oven. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook. It usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to heat up the sauce and dry it out a little and melt the cheese. To be extra fancy, you can broil the cheese and brown it. Serve with the pasta.

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