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09/23/2017

~ My Thai-Inspired Sesame Chicken Thigh Paillards ~

IMG_4059Once upon a time there was a woman in Happy Valley Pennsylvania who was planning to make chicken Milanese for dinner.  "In the style of Milan", it refers to a thinly-sliced and lightly-pounded protein dredged in flour, dipped in egg, then coated with breadcrumbs.  It's quickly-sautéed in butter and/or olive oil until golden. It's crispy outside, juicy and fork-tender inside, and, after squirt of lemon and a parsley garnish it's served the moment it comes out of the skillet.  It couldn't be easier, especially when cooking for just two.  I refer to it as one of my flash-in-the-pan dinners.  

IMG_7761(Italian Chicken Milanese - top photo.  Thai-style Milanese - bottom photo.)  I cook several flash-on-the-pan meals just for us two, and, we adore classic Italian Milanese.

That said, as that day progressed, I wondered if I could fuse the concept of Milanese with another cuisine? Namely, Thai-Asian.  You betcha. After I pounded the chicken thighs, I started by substituting sesame and peanut oil for butter and olive oil.  I whisked Thai seasoning soy and fish sauces into the egg mixture, instead of adding salt and pepper to the flour dredge. The decision to use IMG_4049Japanese panko breadcrumbs in place of Italian-style breadcrumbs was a no-brainer.  A garnish of lime and cilantro, instead of lemon and parsley finished my new dish off, and, I served it atop freshly-steamed jasmine rice with a side of broccoli, instead of my saffron rice which contains peas.  When we sat down to dinner, we were thrilled with our Thai-style Milanese -- complete with my homemade Thai peanut sauce  for dipping and drizzling too.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb098fc7e8970dA bit about paillard (PI-yahrd):  This fancy French word means "to pound", and, references a lightly-pounded portion-sized slice or medallion of meat, poultry or seafood that gets quickly sautéed. A paillard is not madly smashed to smithereens.  Pounding should make it wider and thinner, with the point being to pound it in a manner that makes it even in thickness --  to break down the fibers, to tenderize it, and, to make it cook evenly.  It's done with a flat-sided meat mallet, not a sharp, pyramid-toothed gadget guaranteed to pulverize.  To those who smack away using the back of a heavy skillet, while the bravado is amusing, it's less than affective, as you can't concentrate the necessary force directly on the places that need it to do a truly expert job.

The taste and texture of lightly-pounded paillards is an extra step well worth the effort. I find it to be a time-saver too.  The time it takes to pound six boneless skinless chicken thighs, including the time to get out a cutting board, the plastic wrap and a flat-sided meat mallet is about five minutes. Once done, cooking the paillards is considerably faster and easier, had I not taken the time.

IMG_39746  large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (Note:  This is approximately the equivalent of 3, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves that have been butterflied to form 6 pieces/portions.)

~ Step 1.  Place the thighs between two large layers of plastic wrap and lightly pound with the flat side of a meat mallet to a thickness of more than a 1/4" and less than 1/2".

IMG_3980 IMG_3982~ Step 2. Remove and discard the top layer of plastic wrap and lightly sprinkle the tops of the perfectly-pounded thighs with:

Wonder Quick-Mixing flour for Sauce and Gravy (a granular flour which doesn't clump),  or, ordinary all-purpose flour

IMG_3990~ Step 3.  Allow the chicken to rest 5-10 minutes, to allow the flour time to absorb moisture from chicken.  

During this rest time, sprinkle a light layer of flour in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 12", 3-quart casserole, and, in a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, vigorously whisk together:

4 large eggs with 1  tablespoon Thai seasoning soy sauce and 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce.

IMG_3992 IMG_3996 IMG_3998 IMG_4002~Step 4.  Pick up each piece of chicken and place, floured side down in the lightly-floured casserole. Flour the second sides (now the top sides) and set aside another 5-10 minutes.  Add the whisked egg mixture to the casserole and allow the chicken to rest in the egg mixture, using a fork to stop and "flip-flop" chicken around in the eggs two-three times for 5-10 last minutes.

IMG_4011 IMG_4012 IMG_4016~ Step 5.  In each of two, shallow 9" pie-type dishes, place 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.  Place three chicken thighs in each dish and coat in crumbs, taking time, 3-5 total minutes, to stop and "flip-flop" them, 2-3-4 times, to evenly and completely coat.  Taking time to do this "right", insures the crumbs will stay in place as they sauté -- because they've absorbed lots of moisture from the egg mixture.

IMG_4019 IMG_4025 IMG_4031 IMG_4038 IMG_4034~Step 6.  In a 16" electric skillet over low heat (225°), heat 6 tablespoons peanut oil with 2 tablespoons sesame oil.  Increase heat to medium- medium-high (240°-250°). Add the cutlets to skillet.  Sauté gently until light-golden in color on both sides, turning only once, about 6-7 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent over-browning (which will dry them out). Season tops with freshly-ground sea salt and serve immediately.

Note:  If doubling or tripling the recipe to feed more people, transfer cooked cutlets to a wire cooling rack that has been placed on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking sheet lined with parchment in a modest 225°-230° oven (for up to 30 minutes) while continuing to dredge, dip, coat and dry.

Serve atop steamed jasmine rice w/Thai peanut sauce:

IMG_4063Garnished w/a lime wedge & a sprig of cilantro.

IMG_4072My Thai-Inspired Sesame Chicken Thigh Paillards:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; 13" x 9" x 2", 3-quart casserole; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 2, 9" pie dishes; 16" electric skillet; long-handled fork and/or spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; wire cooling rack

IMG_1616Cook's Note:  For a similar dish (a variation of the same theme without the crispy breadcrumb coating), containing white wine, capers and lemon, click into Categories 12, 20 or 26 to read my recipe ~ For those Times When Ya Just Gotta Have Piccata ~.  In Italian, "piccata" translates to "piquant" or "tangy" or "zesty", and, in the case of this recipe, a few pats of cold butter are stirred into the pan-drippings to make a tangy sauce for drizzling over the top of the finished dish.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

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