The other night, we were out of ideas for dinner and decided to do what we’ve done at least eight thousand other times in our dinner-making lives…
We set up a dredging station (one shallow bowl of flour, one with egg, one with breadcrumbs), dredged four chicken breasts, and pan-fried them until they were just right — crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. Breaded chicken cutlets were the first thing my mom taught my dad how to make when she decided to go to law school (leaving him with three mouths to cook dinner for, three nights a week), the first thing I learned how to make when I was on my own, and one of the first real meals I convinced my onetime chicken-nugget obsessed toddlers to love. You’d think that by now, we would’ve grown out of them, but it’s almost the opposite. They get better and better, and over the years and I’ve built more meals around them than I can count. (My husband every single time: “Why don’t we make these more often?”) Here are a few of my favorites, and I hope you’ll share some ideas as well.
Top Five Things We Do With Breaded Chicken Cutlets
- Serve them on a large platter topped with whatever our salad of the moment is. (Shown: pea shoots, tomatoes, minced red onion, from a few summers ago.) Or just toss directly into a cobb or caesar or kale or arugula salad.
- Stuff them between potato roll buns and give them the crispy fish sandwich treatment topped with slaw.
- Serve them with a no-cook dipping sauce (for a long time in our house, this was known as “ketchup”).
- Slice on the bias and add to a rice bowl along with roast vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli) and drizzle with a soy-ginger (or your favorite) vinaigrette.
- Top with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan; bake for 20 minutes at 350°F for Chicken Parm.
The How-to: Breaded Chicken Cutlets
5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as necessary
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups plain or panko bread crumbs*
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), rinsed, patted dry, and pounded to create an even thickness throughout (place chicken in between plastic wrap and bang using a rolling pin or a meat pounder)
Add oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Set up your dredging stations: one rimmed plate for the eggs, one plate for the flour, and one plate for the bread crumbs seasoned with the salt and pepper. Using a fork coat your chicken pieces first in the flour (shaking off the excess), then in the egg, then in the crumbs pressing the chicken into the crumbs to thoroughly coat.
Fry each breast in the oil for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Try not to crowd the pan. The cutlets are cooked when chicken is firm to the touch but not rock hard.
Remove and drain the chicken on to a paper-towel-lined dinner plate tented with foil if you have more pieces to fry. Add more oil to the pan and fry the remaining breasts.
Note: Feel free to add any of the following to the breadcrumbs: 2 teaspoons mustard powder, a pinch of cayenne, fresh thyme leaves, sesame seeds, or freshly grated Parmesan.
P.S. Another chicken building block and a cozy white bean soup.