Monday, October 4
Chicken breasts, the black pants of food?
Excuse the slightly odd analogy, but as I cleared out my wardrobe to make way for Spring , I counted four pairs of black trousers, enough for every day of the working week (and jeans for casual Friday) .........yawn! I know they are not very imaginative, but that dependable go with most things, make me look slimmer (has science ever actually proved this, or is it an urban myth?), wont show the odd mark reputation, make black pants boring but omnipresent. A bit like chicken breasts.
I stood by the poultry counter at my local supermarket the other night and watched (I pretended to be checking my shopping list, lest I look like a total weirdo....). Chicken is the first meat you come to after produce, and my is it popular. How many shoppers had visions of excitement further along with beef or lamb I could not tell , they capitulated at the first sign of a skinless boneless breast. It is curious because lets be honest, no one thinks yippee, pale, prone to dryness piece of very mild tasting flesh for dinner, rock on! This isn't steak or oysters, or lobster, it wont offend, but it does not really scream yum, does it?
So how to introduce the wow factor, this is the Black Pant challenge........
I think a big part of food is texture, so for me, adding crunch in the form of a crispy coating is a no brainer. For this may I suggest Panko? The link takes you to a neat little You Tube clip showing how panko breadcrumbs are made. Panko originated in Japan during WWII, when bread dough was cooked using electrical current rather than heat, then ground, to produce a light, flaky crumb, that cooks like a dream, and produces a lighter crisper coating than traditional breadcrumbs. A bag lasts for yonks, is not very expensive, and is available at my local supermarket. Otherwise try an Asian store.
I have mentioned in a prior post about bashing out your chicken breast, to get an even texture and thickness. At the risk of repeating myself, it really is worth doing. Just shove the meat in a small plastic bag, and bash with your rolling pin, or something similar like a wine bottle . This gives you a nice even thickness to cook, and saves dry indigestible ends while you wait for the thicker part of your meat to cook through....
Take your flattened meat, and coat with the following crumb mixture. This is enough for 3-4 chicken breasts
Herb and cheese crumb
2 cups Panko crumbs
2 tbsp chopped herbs, I used thyme, rosemary and parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To crumb I set up 3 plates. One with about a cup of seasoned plain flour, one with a beaten egg and one with your crumb mixture. Dip your chicken in the flour to coat, then into the egg, and finally into your crumb mixture, making sure all the meat is covered.
It sounds much more complicated and messier than it is, the whole process for three chicken pieces took me about three minutes, and the meat can be coated in advance and left to sit in the fridge before you fry it off.
To cook heat a frying pan big enough to hold your meat in a single layer, and add enough oil (I use Canola, but whatever oil you like would be fine) to just coat the bottom of the pan. Heat on med until the oil is hot, and cook your meat for about 5 minutes per side, until the crust is brown and crispy and the meat is cooked through.
The crumb provides a textural elementt that is so lacking in a skinless piece of meat. As a kid who didn't eat the golden crispy skin , before it became the kind of socially unacceptable behaviour practiced alone in the privacy of your own home?? It also provides protection to stop the meat drying out, which can happen over the heat of frying.
I served my chicken with some simply steamed asparagus, a green salad, and a quick mayo, thinned with water, and plenty of lemon juice. Simple, but delicious, and not at all boring!