While Randy is on hiatus recovering from a writing-induced ailment, some friends are taking up the slack. Today’s post is by Elizabethe Kramer.
Why does a long period of intermittent–but consistent–failure finally prompt me to make a change? Periodically, over a period of 20+ years, I’ve attempted to add a flavorful crust to chicken breasts, pork chops, fish, beef, and probably some other things I can’t recall right now. But despite my technique, each time, either the crust stuck to the bottom of the pan or it completely disengaged, to sit mockingly right next to the item it was intended to cover.
I was annoyed. What seemed like a simple culinary technique repeatedly disappointed. Whether pecan, parmesan, breadcrumbs, or some combination of 11 herbs and spices, I just couldn’t keep a crust from sliding off a chicken breast before getting it to the table.
But recently, ever the optimist (translation: stubborn), we invited good friends over for dinner. Regrettably, a late-night-before and early-morning-of thwarted my attempts at a world-class menu, until out of some strange place, I declared that the only dish worth serving was crusted chicken. My husband gave me a look he saves for my most brilliant flashes of optimism, then wisely retreated to watch football, mow the lawn, or write lyrics…safe and out of earshot.
Digging through old stacks of cooking magazines (all skimmed, few used), I found the very first Cuisine at Home issue we ever ordered. I like this magazine’s method of teaching a recipe, then following it with two or three variations, to prove that the technique does, in fact, work. Reskimming the recipes for crusted chicken, I decided to try again.
And despite guests arriving a full hour early (what? who does that?), the results were quite good. Check out this paraphrased version.
Crusted Chicken for Optimists
- Clean, then with a paper towel or clean dish towel, dry chicken breasts (or whatever item you plan to crust).
- Whisk 5 egg whites in a bowl and set aside.
- In a pie pan or other shallow dish, mix the crust ingredients you plan to use. For this one, I used a cup of panko bread crumbs and 1/2 cup of good grated parmesan, then seasoned it with salt and pepper.
- Dip chicken piece in egg white.
- Place a chicken piece in crust mix and press it down firmly (in my view, to encourage the crust mix to make a commitment). Repeat for each piece.
- Place newly crusted chicken pieces on wire rack or cookie sheet.
- Let dry for 30 minutes.
- On medium heat, sauté chicken in a combination of olive oil and butter for three minutes. Start with a tablespoon of each.
- Turn chicken gently.
- Sauté another three minutes.
- Transfer chicken (gently) to baking pan (or, if you’re using an oven-safe skillet, put it right in the oven).
- Roast for 20 minutes at 450 degrees.
- Remove from oven. Let rest for five minutes.
Fourteen small steps. But the most important one? #7.
Sometimes, value is realized in letting something sit. And dry.
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