I have a few unrelated-to-each-other-but-totally-related-to-the-theme things to say about today’s Foodie Friday, so I might as well just get them out of the way right now:
Item the first: When Child was actually a child, we went to see Hoodwinked. I still like that movie – especially the goat flying down the mountain on the run-away mine cart singing “Oh, the avalanche is comin’ and I do not feel prepared“. I still randomly sing that. So good. But I digress. There’s also a glorious Schnitzel song. But Child was only 5 when this movie came out, so he kept calling it “Snitchel”. Way more adorable than all y’all’s far more pedestrian mispronunciation of “pissketti”. To this day I have to think hard to say Schnitzel instead of Snitchel. And I live in the part of Ontario that has the largest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Munich. Thar be Snitchel in the region of Waterloo. And how. Delicious, delicious, Snitchel. If you don’t want to make it yourself and you’re in the region, I recommend the Lion Brewery at the Heuther Hotel for some very respectable snitchel. So, so good.
Item the second: I’m not making schnitzel, I’m making cutlets. And in a perfect world, I’d be making veal cutlets, but this article is about chicken cutlets, so you’re going to have to squint and pretend they’re made of baby cow, not poultry. Or don’t, whatever. They’re delicious either way. You could make cutlets out of other stuff, too – eggplant, pork (which would legit classify as snitchel), seitan… whatev’s. I like veal and will settle for chicken when veal is not in the budget. Your mileage may vary.
Item the third: If you’re going to go to the effort, you might as well make a whole bunch of these. If your house is like mine (or my parents, or any of my uncles or aunts or cousins), they’ll disappear right from the plate while you’re making them and from the fridge if you’ve made them ahead of time. Seriously, make a pile. To avoid eating 40 pounds of cutlets myself, I got my gentleman associate to put the cutlets in vacuum sealed bags in the freezer. Even then, you might have to wrap them in foil and label them “Fish Guts” so no one breaks into the stash. You think I’m joking. This might be a lesson you have to learn yourself.
Note to the gentlemen of the Casa di Swears: There is nothing in the freezer labelled Fish Guts that is NOT Fish Guts. So you don’t have to go investigating. I’m saving you the heartbreak. DON’T look. Trust me.
To the method!
My cutlets arrived in my house as intact chicken breasts. I butterflied them, and then if they were thick enough, butterflied each half again. I don’t know what Southern Pride feeds their chickens, but the breasts I bought this week were pretty massive. Once you’ve got them in mostly-cutlet size, put them between two pieces of parchment and pound them thinner with a your kitchen gavel* (*by which I mean your meat tenderizer, but use a fairly flat side, you don’t want to tear the meat so much. This ain’t Tarantino’s kitchen massacre).
Prepare your breadcrumb mix – I make my own breadcrumbs from the bakery bread that Child says he’s going to eat but doesn’t. I’m OK with it either way – you can’t have cutlets without breadcrumbs. And you can’t have breadcrumbs if Child always eats all the bread. Everybody wins. If you’re buying them, get Italian style; some of the herbs are already mixed in.
So, on a plate or platter (depending on how big you’re going to keep your cutlet pieces – I make mine about the size of my hand), pour out your breadcrumbs. Add some Italian herbs and salt and pepper. Stir it up some and shake the plate a bit to spread out the crumbs. In another plate, break two eggs and scramble them until they’re a little frothy.
Prepare your frying pan: heat the pan to medium, and add some oil.
Dip the cutlets in the egg (flip so it gets on both sides), then dip into the breadcrumbs (flip here, too). Have a few pieces prepared so that when the oil is shimmery and hot, you’re ready to go. Lay the breaded cutlet(s) in the pan and don’t touch them. When you can see the edges of the cutlet look cooked (this will depend on how thick the cutlets are. Mine took about 3-4 minutes), flip them with a fork and cook for another minute or two. Then remove them to a platter.
You may need to add a bit more oil between batches. My experience is that I have to wipe out the pan after every 3 batches or so to remove the burnt breadcrumbs that have fallen off.
And that’s it. Well, except one thing. If you end up with more egg and breadcrumbs than you have cutlets, mix the breadcrumbs into the egg to make a batter (kind of), and fry that, too. I don’t know if it has a name. My uncles would make breaded veal cutlets for family picnics and they’d tuck the little breadcrumb fritter in the foil-wrapped package. Whomever found it felt like they won a prize.
If you’re cooking them on the same day you’re planning to eat them for dinner, you can put them in an oven safe dish or on a cookie sheet in the oven to keep warm.
Variations: I’ve also done these with half breadcrumbs – half oat bran and baked them instead of frying them when we wanted to be healthier. They don’t get as crisp, but they’re still OK. If you’re going to eventually put sauce and cheese on them for Veal or Eggplant Parmesan, it doesn’t really matter if they stay crisp- the sauce and cheese will make it un-crisp either way. I’ve had them in restaurants where they just deep fry them – they get super crisp, but they aren’t pretending to even be healthy. Although, in restaurants, they are often served with sauerkraut, so that might balance it some, I guess.
There you go… I may or may not be eating manyManyMANY cutlets as I watch Hoodwinked this weekend. Because I’m highly suggestible, and I’m totally prepared.