Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...


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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honey that sure looks yummy! You certainly learned how to "doctor it up" didn't you Tra.

Love you, Mom

6/10/2009 9:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, Okay, you made me hungry. I had to threaten Mom with me cooking lunch but I finally got her into the kitchen to fix us some lunch. You and J have a blessed day!

6/10/2009 1:18 PM

Blogger Simona Carini said...

I sent you a virtual hug as soon as I reached the first period. I have never found myself in the dire straits you describe. If/when I do, I will remember what you wrote.

6/10/2009 2:22 PM

Blogger Do Bianchi said...

Tracie B, words can't say just how good that chicken is. your cooking always leaves me — man of so many words — speechless... :-) soooo unbelievably good...

not that you had to find the way to my heart through my stomach though! ;-) tvbtlb

6/10/2009 3:31 PM

Blogger Tracie P. said...

mom--love you too mom! you'd be proud of how i've learned how to improvise

dad--quite a motivational threat, i would imagine...come to austin, we'll all eat this together. love you!

simona--never?! virtual hugs accepted :)

2B--you're sooooo drammatic! you just like it 'cause it's fried. glad i found a way to your heart, not matter what route i had to take :X

6/10/2009 9:57 PM

Blogger Sicilian said...

I will have to admit to you that I never had any bread crumbs at home except Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs. . . . which by the way are the only kind I buy. . . . if they breaded with anything else it would have been flour and or crackers. . . .
Only a year ago did I discover Panko. . . . and they are wonderful for fish tacos. I do save up ends of bread like my mother. . . . she used them to make the expensive progresso go a little bit further.

6/10/2009 10:27 PM

Blogger Tracie P. said...

it's not about them being "panko" crumbs, it's just that they were the only ones at the grocery store w/out partially hydrogenated oil. by the time you have a go in the processor, they're all small-crumby anyway

6/10/2009 10:31 PM

Blogger Joe Manekin said...

Tracie B.

My mom, too, was a big fan of all things 'doctored.' (she used the same turn of phrase) Epecially the doctored jar of tomato sauce, with fresh garlic, a bit of pepper, a healthy sprinkling of chopped parsley. This saw me through the 'pasta years'in my early-mid 20's just as I imagine your terrific idea for bread crumbs will see me through my more culinarily ambitious 30's.

Thanks for the tip.

6/10/2009 11:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This looks fantastic Tracie. I would try it if my grandmother wouldn't dissaprove for not soaking the chicken in buttermilk for at least a day. The breadcrumb tip is golden. I use them so much that i've never thought to give them a step up.

6/10/2009 11:34 PM

Blogger Tracie P. said...

forgot to mention, in the first chicken pic, i used home made breadcrumbs (threw a little cornmeal in them too), in the second i used the kikkoman.

joe m--thanks for stopping by! youre mom a southern lady too?

saignee--buttermilk's a great tenderizer, i bet your grandmother's chicken is SO good...thanks :)

6/11/2009 7:25 AM

Blogger Brandy said...

We've been working on slicing with the butchers and deli-men at Central Market too. One of these days....

6/12/2009 1:46 PM

Blogger nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I'm making that chicken tonight. yum.

I add oregano and basil to my breadcrumbs too.

6/13/2009 7:46 AM

Blogger Tracie P. said...

brandy--fight the good fight sorella!

nyc--really? that makes me happy :) let me know how they turn out!

6/13/2009 12:13 PM

Anonymous J.Doe said...

I too got grossed out when I saw all the hydrogenated stuff and chemicals in store bought bread crumbs that when the panko brands came out without that stuff I was happy. I still prefer to grind up my own to buying though.
That chicken sure does look good!!

6/23/2009 5:56 AM

Blogger Avvinare said...

That chicken makes me hungry too. Sounds like Stellina nella cucina knows her stuff....Like to her more from you about wine thoughts too. Congrats on impending nozze...Bread crumbs..when not making my own, I'm a progresso girl I confess.

7/02/2009 10:56 PM

Blogger Dr. Robert M. Oliva said...

I have really enjoyed your blog. My wife and I vacationed in Italy last year and cry every time we are reminded of it. It is a wonderful culture with fantastic people. We even were embroiled in a transit strike in Sienna. Well, I will link your blog to mine. I have a very modest wine blog. I think people will enjoy your blog as much as I have. Wishing you the best.


7/09/2009 11:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kikkoman Panko Crumbs list partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient list.

10/04/2009 9:16 PM


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