Back in the day when one of my good friends still lived in Chicago we used to get together on Friday nights, pick up fried chicken and a bottle of red wine, and watch several episodes of Gilmore Girls. We called it our Friday Night Dinner. Emily Gilmore would have been proud. (Not.)
Those were good times, so recently I decided to recreate our Friday ritual with my own mini Gilmore marathon and this recipe for Deviled Crisp Breaded Chicken Cutlets. I must say it was a success. A nice juicy piece of chicken with a crisp crust, just a hint of heat, and a splash of lemon really fit the bill.
The concept here is #16: Create Layers for a Breading that Sticks. First, care has to be taken to ensure that excess moisture does not prevent a breading from sticking to a piece of meat. Second, sticky proteins (I’ll channel my inner Lorelai here with a dirty!) help keep coatings in place. Third, a three-step coating process creates the perfect crunchy crust. In practice this means you dry the piece of meat thoroughly, pound the meat to encourage the release of sticky proteins (dirty!-er), and coat the meat with flour (for drying), egg (for sticking), and breadcrumbs (for crunch).
The regular version of this recipe involves just chicken, flour, egg, breadcrumbs, and lemon. Take each chicken breast (I halved the recipe and just did two), place it between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound it until it’s about ½-inch thick throughout. I just used a rolling pin for this – sorry, neighbor who probably wondered what I was doing! Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel, then season with salt and pepper. I like things a little spicy, so opted for the Deviled version that includes a nice pinch of cayenne sprinkled over the breasts at this point.
To get your three-step coating going, place ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour in a shallow dish. In another shallow bowl, beat 1 egg, ½ tablespoon vegetable oil, (if you’re making them Deviled) 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard, ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme. Lastly, process 1 ½ pieces of sandwich bread, torn into quarters, in a food processor. I used whole wheat bread, not to be extra healthy but because it was what I happened to have. Pour that into a third shallow bowl. Working with one cutlet at a time, dredge them in flour, shaking off the excess, then coat them with the egg, and finally coat them with the crumbs, pressing them to adhere.
Now you do a shallow fry, which doesn’t scare me at all since conquering my oil fears. Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick skillet (I used cast iron) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Only one cutlet at a time fit in my skillet, so I cooked them individually, about 3 minutes on each side until the crust was a deep golden brown. Because the chicken is thin it’ll cook through in this time and the coating will prevent it from drying out. Drain the cutlets on some paper towels, then keep warm in a 200° oven on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and cook the other cutlet. The recipe says to pour out the oil and use fresh, but I didn’t and the second piece turned out okay, if a bit browner than the first.
Serve with a wedge of lemon (this adds a lot – don’t skip it), pour a glass of wine, and put on your favorite season of Gilmore Girls. It’s not a bad way to spend a Friday night.