Learning to Deal: Fried Chicken and My Thoughts on Breadcrumbs
Let me just start by saying that there is no excuse to use store-bought bread crumbs. They are SO easy to make as long as you have bread. And if the bread is fresh, as long as you have time to dry them out in the oven, let them cool completely, and grind it down in the food processor (that you surely own), you will never have to resort to industrial leftovers...
But what's a girl to do when her guy asks her ever so sweetly to make his favorite fried chicken for dinner? At 6:00 in the evening and she still had to go to the store? How could I say no? (My "fried chicken" is an Italian-style cotoletta di pollo, I use thinly-sliced** chicken breasts and bread them with flour-egg-breadcrumb coating.) The preferred contorni are mashed potatoes and some kind of leafy green, so you can imagine that this is no 30-minute meal.
An obvious solution would be to grab a pack of store-bought breadcrumbs (see first paragraph), but I had turned my back on them years ago after realizing that they all contained partially-hydrogenated oil. In a very Christopher Columbus moment I discovered Kikkoman Panko a few months ago and realized (joy!) that they have no P.H. oil on the ingredient list.
In any case, whether you make your own crumbs or buy them at the store, you can easily put a little sass in the frass by "doctoring them up," as my mom would say. Here's what you do:
Once your crumbs are processed, add lemon zest, fresh basil, fresh thyme, salt, pepper, and Parmiggiano-Reggiano and pulse until everything is ground (for the chicken in the first pic, I even used a spoonful of cornmeal--can't ignore the 'southern' in me). Last week I threw in a bit of lively tarragon that was in my fridge and it added a whole new level of aroma to the seasoned crumbs. The flavors of lemon and basil tend to whither a bit in the heat, so don't be shy--use a whole lemon's zest and a brazen handful of basil.
That's the secret, as for the rest (flour-egg-breadcrumb-FRY) you are all accomplished cooks and know exactly what to do!
And who doesn't love fried?
**From the "don't get me started" section of my blog: "thinly-sliced" is a foreign concept here in Austin. I was quite spoiled in Italy to find everything sliced to perfection--prosciutto, veal, pork, chicken breasts, turkey breasts--everything! The patience that I exercise when the butcher proudly shows me how carefully he cut the breast down to a one-half-inch thickness is grounds for canonization. The way that I cheer on the deli guy to cut my prosciutto better (come on, you CAN DO IT!) is a testament to my optimism, right Jeremy P? One day it will be better in Austin...it will! I have a dream, and in it, I can almost see you through the slice.