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~Moist & Juicy Breaded & Deep-Fried Chicken Cutlets~

IMG_4757Breaded chicken cutlets are a big time-saver for a working parent.  By keeping a bag on-hand in the freezer, after a quick thaw in the microwave, any number of kid-friendly meals can be put on the family dinner table in less than an hour.  That said, the chicken cutlets found in the frozen-food section of the grocery store, are, for the most part:  terrible.  From way-too-much-cardboard-esque-breading to skinny, dried-out and rubberlike, I find them reprehensibly unpalatable.  

When I was raising three boys, after trying two (maybe three) brands of frozen, breaded chicken cutlets, and proceeding to throw all the remains away, they were added to my list of store-bought items I simply refused to buy for my kids.  Trust me, when it comes to kids, when you put your foot down to time-saving junk like the USA's favorite brand of boxed macaroni and cheese, all-things that help hamburger, and, chicken cutlets, you'd better have a show-stopping alternative.

Tenderize the most tender part of the chicken:

IMG_4676 IMG_4676 IMG_4676For about $14-$15 at a any of my local markets, I can purchase a "value pack" of 6-pounds chicken breast tenderloins, It contains approximately 3o tenderloins, which when breaded and deep-fried, are good-sized cutlets -- one or per two person.  When I get them home, I arrange them side-by-side, on a large cutting board, between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Using the flat-side of a meat mallet, I lightly-pound them, with "lightly" being the key word here -- do not smash them to smithereens.   Start-to-finish, this process takes less than five minutes and renders them fork tender.

Set up the deep-frying assembly line (left to right):

IMG_4687Chicken tenderloins, prepped as directed above.

One 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 2 cups dry pancake mix.

One loaf-pan containing 2 1/2 cups pancake mix whisked with 22 ounces beer (Note:  Beer lends wonderful flavor with yeasty undertones to the breading.  That said, if I can't convince you that the heat of the deep-fryer will evaporate all the alcohol, feel free to substitute club soda.)

One 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 2, 8-ounces boxes panko breadcrumbs.

Deep-fryer w/corn or peanut oil heated to 360° according to manufacturer's specifications.

Misc:  forks, 3-minute timer, wire cooling rack, paper towels, sea salt grinder.

IMG_4709~ Step 1.  When everything is measured and in place, whisk together the pancake mix and beer (or club soda). Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process. This will give the batter time to thicken a bit, to a drizzly consistency.  If at any point during the frying process (even at the outset) if the batter seems or gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer (or club soda) to maintain a very drizzly consistency.

IMG_4685~ Step 2.  This step is actually optional, so skip it if you like.  When it comes to chicken cutlets, I prefer the texture of my panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) to be less coarse.  To make that happen:

Place panko in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Using a series of 50-60 rapid on-off pulses, process these super-crispy breadcrumbs to finer crumbs.

Fry Baby Fry -- It's all about Fearless Frying:

IMG_4718 IMG_4718 IMG_4718 IMG_4718 IMG_4718~Step 1.  Working in batches of 2 cutlets at a time, dredge each paid in the dry pancake mix to coat it on all sides.  Note:  I fry 2 at a time because that is what fits comfortably in the basket of my fryer without overcrowding it.  Next, move up the assembly line, and, one-at-a-time dip each cutlet into the batter.  As you lift each one out of the batter, hold it over the bowl for a second or two, to allow the batter to drizzle back into the bowl.  As you batter dip each cutout, place it into the dish of panko. Dredge both of the cutlets in the panko ASAP.

IMG_4735 IMG_4735Step 2.  One-at-a-time, and with the aid of a fork, carefully lower the pair of breaded cutlets down into the 360° oil and into the fryer basket.  Close the lid and allow cutlets to deep-fry for 3 1/2-4 minutes.  Chicken cutlets will be a beautiful golden brown and just cooked through.  Do not overcook -- residual heat will continue to cook them.

IMG_4743Step 3.  Open fryer lid and slowly lift basket up and out of deep-fryer.  Transfer cutlets to a wire rack in a baking pan that has been lined with paper towels.  Tip:  To transfer the cutlets, simply tilt the basket onto its side directly over the rack.  Using tongs is a mistake -- an easy way to damage their crust.  Once out of the fryer, immediately sprinkle cutlets with freshly ground sea salt and repeat this process until all cutlets are breaded and fried.

IMG_4757~ Step 4.  Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, as directed in specific recipe.  To freeze, place completely cooled cutlets on a large baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Freeze, uncovered, several hours to overnight (overnight is best). Transfer frozen cutlets to a ziplock bag.  When needed, thaw and reheat room temperature cutlets in a 350° oven until just heated through, about 10 minutes.

Slice & add to a favorite main-dish salad in lieu of croutons:

IMG_4808Serve Asian-style w/a veggie stir-fry, white rice & dipping sauce:

IMG_4793And please pass the lightly-sauced-pasta w/cheesy parmigiana:

IMG_4766Moist & Juicy Breaded & Deep-Fried Chicken Cutlets:  Recipe yields instructions to batter-dip, bread, deep-fry and freeze chicken cutlets.

Special Equipment List:  large cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 1, 9" x 5" x 4" loaf-type baking dish; whisk; forks; 3-minute timer; wire cooling rack; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d25243da970c 6a0120a8551282970b0192ac404b1a970dCook's Note: Batter dipping works great for other meats and vegetables too.  During the Summer zucchini onslaught, try making my ~ Batter-Dipped Panko-Crusted Deep-Fried Zucchini ~, and, in the Fall, my ~ Deep-Fried Pork Fingers w/Bone Suckin' Sauce ~ are a delightful alternative to ribs for a tailgate in front of the TV.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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