September 3, 2011

Parmesan Panko Chicken Cutlets with Cashew Green Beans

As you may know, I was a picky eater growing up. I really ate a very, very limited variety of foods as a kid. It was pretty much cereal for breakfast, pasta for everything else. Occasionally, though, I was forced to go outside my comfort zone. One such occasion was when I went over to friends' houses for dinner. I knew that, unlike at home, I wasn't necessarily going to get my usual pasta for dinner.  Not wanting to go without dinner, I stepped outside my boundaries and tried something new. Much to my amazement, I often ended up liking whatever was being served.

I often remember going over to friends' houses and being served breaded chicken cutlets for dinner.
Perhaps it was because they are such a simple and satisfying weeknight meal, perhaps it was because of their semblance to chicken fingers or chicken nuggets ("Whoa!" I thought, "Their mom makes her own chicken fingers! That's awesome!"), but I was unusually open to trying them - as long as nothing "interesting" was served on top ("Excuse, what is that green thing on top? Ok, well, I can wait to eat until dessert. What, no dessert?").

And so breaded chicken cutlets went on my ok-foods-to-eat list. And I still love them. If prepared correctly they are crunchy on the outside, juicy and succulent on the inside.  As a kid, I remember these being served with tomato sauce. There's nothing wrong with a little tomato sauce on the side, but I've prepared these to have plenty of flavor in the breadcrumb coating, with chili flakes, lemon zest and parmesan cheese mixed in. And I use Japanese panko breadcrumbs - perfect for pan-frying - for an extra crunch. Once they're fried up, a squeeze of lemon is all they need.

I also remember green beans being the perennial side dish for weeknight meals. Green beans took me a little longer to warm up to than chicken cutlets as a kid. Years longer, in fact. When, well into the second decade of my life, I started to eat these slender greens, they were often just steamed with a little butter on top - which I love. But for this rendition of one of summer's most humble vegetables, I've added toasted cashews, sesame seeds, olive oil and lemon juice.

This recipe is all about taking a classic meal and serving it up with a batch of new flavors. It might not be the chicken cutlets and green beans of your childhood, but hopefully, you're not the picky eater of your childhood, either.

Recipe below.

Parmesan Panko Chicken Cutlets
Serves 2-4

-4 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets
-1 cup white flour
-4 eggs
-1 cup panko breadcrumbs
-2 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano cheese
-1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
-1 teaspoon chili flakes
-salt and pepper
-vegetable or canola oil for pan frying
-1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges

1. Set out three pie pans or shallow bowls. In one bowl, place the flour. In the second bowl, beat the eggs well. In the third bowl, mix the panko breadcrumbs, parmigiano cheese, lemon zest, chili flakes and a dash of salt and pepper.

2. Working with one chicken cutlet at a time, first dip both sides into the flour, coating well and shaking off excess flour. Then dip the cutlet in the egg mixture, coating well. Finally dip both sides into the panko mixture, being sure to coat the chicken in an even layer of breadcrumbs. Place on a plate until ready to fry.

3. Heat a sauté pan large enough to hold all 4 chicken cutlets on medium heat. Add a layer of vegetable oil and allow to warm. Place the chicken cutlets in the oil and allow to fry for 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through and golden-brown on the outside. Remove to a plate covered with a paper towel and allow to sit for a minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Cashew Green Beans
Serves 2-4

-2 cups green beans, stems removed
-1/4 cup crushed cashews
-1 tablespoon sesame seeds
-4 tablespoons olive oil
-juice of half of lemon
-salt and pepper

1. Place a small amount of water in a covered medium pot. If you have a steam basket, place it in the pot. If not, don't worry about it. Allow the water to come to a boil. Add the green beans and cover. Cook for 4-8 minutes, depending on thickness of green beans, until cooked through but still a bit crunchy.

2. In the meantime, heat a small skillet on medium heat. Add the cashews and sesame seeds to the dry pan and toast, tossing frequently, until lightly browned. Remove from the pan.

3. Transfer green beans to a serving platter and dress with olive oil and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Toss well. Top with cashews and sesame seeds and serve at once.