Mark Bittman: Roasted Chicken Cutlets



By Alaina Sullivan

Baked chicken wrapped in breadcrumbs immediately conjures up memories of the dry, bland versions I used to endure as a kid. (The kind where a vat of dipping mustard was essential and you needed a glass of milk to wash down each chalky bite.) This recipe is anything but dry or bland. Part of it is because the breadcrumbs are limited to a topping - they maintain a strong textural presence without sealing the chicken in a dusty coat. Using thinner cutlets instead of full breasts ensures that the ratio of crust to meat is just right. The other part of the equation is using fresh breadcrumbs - homemade crumbs from a decent loaf of bread will take your dredge to a whole new level. Add some fresh parsley and grated Parmesan to the mix and you've got yourself an easy and flavorful crust that makes the store-bought version all-but useless. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.

Roasted Chicken Cutlets

Crisp bread crumbs on top, tender and juicy inside-without stovetop cooking.

Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus butter for greasing the pan

11/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenders, or thighs

1 cup bread crumbs, preferably fresh

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 egg

2 lemons, quartered, for serving

1. Heat the oven to 400°F and grease a rimmed baking sheet with a little butter. If necessary, spread the chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound each to uniform thickness; blot them dry with a paper towel.

2. Combine the bread crumbs, melted butter, and parsley in a shallow bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss until mixed. Lightly beat the egg in another shallow bowl.

3. Dip the smooth side of each chicken breast first in egg and then in the bread crumb mixture, pressing down to make sure the bread crumbs stick. Put each breast, crumb side up, on the baking sheet. If there's any leftover topping, sprinkle it on top of the breasts and press down again so it sticks.

4. Put the chicken in the oven and roast until the cutlets are firm to the touch with little or no pink inside, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on thickness. To check for doneness, cut into a piece with a thin-bladed knife and take a peek. To serve, transfer the cutlets to plates and serve with lemon.

Tips

For crunch and flavor it's hard to beat your own bread crumbs, made from good-quality rustic-style bread. But coarse panko (or Japanese-style bread crumbs) are a solid second choice, and they're available in supermarkets. Avoid finely ground store-bought bread crumbs; they taste like dust.

Variations

4 Different Dredging Mixtures:

1. Add 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan to the bread crumb mixture.

2. Replace the parsley with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, or mint leaves.

3. Skip the parsley and add 1/2 cup ground or finely chopped nuts to the bread crumb mixture.

4. Replace the egg with 1/4 cup miso. Spread a thin coating of the paste all over the chicken, then follow the recipe from Step 3.

In How to Cook Everything: The Basics Mark Bittman reveals how truly easy it is to learn fundamental techniques and recipes. From dicing vegetables and roasting meat, to cooking building-block meals that include salads, soups, poultry, meats, fish, sides, and desserts, Bittman explains what every home cook, particularly novices, should know.