Fruit for dinner

January 19, 2010

Liquid form. Because I didn’t get home until 8:30. Fortunately, I knew when I left at 7:30 this morning I’d be working late, so I took not only lunch (leftover posole) but a snack for dinner (some cheese and an apple). That, with valentine candy, did me just fine.

I’ve cooked a little since my last post…the aforementioned posole, for one, second time I’ve made the Castaneda posole blogged about back in November, I think ’twas, and I am here to testify it is just as good as I remembered it. That is some FINE STUFF. And I will forever be grateful to the eGullet forum for providing me that recipe via Chris Amirault. Thanks again, folks.

Sunday afternoon, I cooked something that was so simple it was just wonderful. And hereby hangs a confession I was for many years one of those cooks who didn’t see the sense in all the interim steps, or why things had to be done in a certain order. So maybe I wouldn’t brown the meat before I cooked a pot roast or stew. Or maybe I’d dump the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients all together and not bother with beating the eggs first and then stirring in the other liquids, and then the dry stuff. And I’d be afraid to cook stuff on too high a heat, or to cook it long enough on that high heat to get it well browned before I tried to flip it.

So consequently, a lot of what I cooked was, well, less than successful. It’s not until the last few years, when I got past the stage of “OK, what can I put on the table for dinner in 30 minutes” and mixes in a box, that I started trying to make a conscious effort to follow directions. And y’know what? There’s REASONS they tell you to do that stuff! And here I thought it was just chefs and cookbook editors trying to make things more difficult than they were so we’d be impressed. I hereby apologize, all you chefs and cookbook editors out there.

Anyway. I read somewhere about chicken cutlets, and it put me in mind of the tonkatsu I had in Japan, although that was “the other white meat,” but damn, was it good. I had chicken breasts; I had panko. And I commenced to make chicken cutlets, which I will most assuredly make again, even though they’re a good bit of work and dirty up a helluva lot of dishes and will smoke up your kitchen when the crumbs that fall off finally burn in the oil while you’re frying the next batch.

I took boneless, skinless breasts, one at a time, and pounded them flat in a gallon ziploc bag, down to about 1/3 inch thick.  Being that I was at my friend’s house, and couldn’t find either a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin, I turned to a highly specialized piece of kitchen equipment: a rubber mallet from the workbench in the garage. Hell, it wasn’t going to TOUCH anything, so those smears of paint shouldn’t matter, right? (Made sense to me.) OK, so now I have mammoth chicken cutlets, which I magically transformed to manageable size chicken cutlets by way of cutting them up in two or three pieces each.

Dredged ’em in seasoned flour (salt, pepper, paprika). Dipped ’em in egg, beaten with a little water. Dipped ’em in panko. Fried ’em in about 1/4 inch of hot oil, over medium high heat. About two minutes on a side, drained on paper towels on a wire rack, then plunked on a cookie sheet in the oven to stay warm. Just in case they needed a little heat to finish the cooking, I turned it to 300, and they weren’t in there more than 10 minutes.

Sweet baby Jesus. These were some fine chicken cutlets. I had no idea the three-step dredge-dip-dredge process would keep in so much moisture, or maybe it’s just that they’re so thin that the high heat can crisp up the outside wonderfully before it dries out the inside. I just know that was some of the best simply-prepared chicken I’ve had in a long damn time.

If you wanted to really fancy it up, it’d be easy to do with a nice sauce; I had, in fact, bought some white wine with an idea toward building a sauce out of wine, worchestershire, butter and lemon juice, and some shallots, but that just looked like more trouble than I wanted to go to. So I didn’t.

Tomorrow night, I think it’s going to be some sort of pasta and sauce. The next night, it’s banquet food. Ick. Or at least I presume that’s ick-land; I know little banquet catering that isn’t.

But lamb shanks await this weekend! You and y’mama ‘n ’em get your copy and paste function ready; I think this is going to be a good one.

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