Friday, October 21, 2011
Chicken Shnitzel Recipe- Breaded Chicken Cutlets
Not only do people love chicken shnitzel, my pocketbook does as well, because, my friends, it is an oh so frugal dish. For meat anyhow. Know why?
Well, lets start with the fact that according to my calculations, chicken breast is definitely one of the cheaper types of meat, even if you buy the seemingly more expensive chicken breast, as it doesn't have any bones in it.
However, I tend to buy whole chickens most often, as they're even cheaper in my area (even once you factor in the bones).
The problem with buying whole chickens is that chicken breast cooks a lot quicker than the other parts of the chicken, so when you cook a whole chicken (or at least when I do, maybe I'm doing something wrong), by the time the chicken thighs and legs are cooked, the chicken breast has pretty much overcooked and turned into that white meat I always hated growing up- bland and pretty dry, making you want to drink a whole cup of water with your chicken, as it feels like you're eating sawdust. Or smother it in ketchup.
If there's something I hate when cooking, its when more expensive foods come out tasting icky. If the more expensive food doesn't taste much nicer, might as well just eat the cheaper food that tastes fine, even if not extra special.
In our house, meat is a "special food", meant to be enjoyed sporadically, not daily, and I need my meat to taste good.
So I don't cook whole chickens anymore. Aside from when I'm being really lazy and then I give the overcooked chicken breasts to my husband, who'll happily eat any type of meat, he just is that way... but I feel bad, because that chicken breast has such potential, why waste it by making it taste mediocre (or dry and sawdusty if you ask me), when with the proper cooking method it can be juicy, succulent, and absolutely divine.
Which brings me back to chicken shnitzel, because chicken shnitzel is the food of the gods. Frugal gods, that is.
I take my whole chicken and cut it into parts and freeze them in the correct sized portions for our family. (Thighs, legs, and wings go in one bag, chicken carcass and neck in another bag.) I then take the chicken breasts from that chicken, take it off the bone and cartilage, and set to work to make it into this frugal dish. No, I don't give a whole side of chicken breast and give it to each person. Most people don't need that much protein in one go- the average person is definitely not lacking in protein...
What I do instead is cut each side of the chicken breast into at least 5 or 6 pieces in the method I described in my chicken wrapped fennel cakes recipe. You want the pieces to be as thin as possible- because when people eat, they largely eat with their eyes, and thinner wider/longer pieces will feel more satisfying than stubby thicker pieces. I'll sometimes cut as many as 10 pieces from one side of the chicken breast, having many thin, smallish pieces of shnitzel, and will serve my kids one or two and adults 2 or 3 with their meal, depending on how hungry they are. This stretches the already cheap chicken breast really, really far.
Ok, so now once you have these cut pieces of chicken, how do you actually make the shnitzel? Easy as pie.
I have to give a warning that the biggest thing that can go wrong with making chicken shnitzel, turning this delicious food into the pit of blah-ness is lack of flavoring. And overcooking. So trust me on this one- even if the ingredients and exact instructions sound superfluous, they're not. They make this divine food be the way it is.
Chicken Shnitzel, Non Gluten Free
Salad dressing, soy sauce, lemon juice, etc...
Bread crumbs, ideally homemade, OR
Corn flake crumbs
Onions powder or minced onion flakes
Rolled oats (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional)
1. In a bowl, beat one egg. To this, you want to add liquid flavoring of some kind, ideally something a drop tart. My dad used to mix his egg with some salad dressing, any kind will do. If you made a homemade salad and have some dressing left in the bottom of the plate/bowl/container, feel free to pour those leftovers into the egg. The exact amount isn't so important, you just want there to be less dressing than egg, so it doesn't end up too watery. You can use a splash of my homemade Italian dressing or French dressing, but if you don't have any prepared, you can also use soy sauce, lemon juice, or homemade Worcestershire sauce. The exact ingredient doesn't matter, the point just is to add flavor to your chicken.
2. In another container, combine bread crumbs/corn flake crumbs, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, parsley, rolled oats and sesame seeds (if using). Again, exact amounts aren't necessary. Just add what "looks right". If you like things more strongly flavored, add more spices. If you prefer blander, go easy with the spices.
Taste the bread crumb mix. Salt it to taste. (You want it slightly on the saltier side because it'll be the seasoning for the chicken breast.) If the flavoring you added to the egg contains salt (if you're using dressing or soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, for example), take that into account when adding the salt to your breadcrumbs. You don't want it to be too salty- you can always taste your first shnitzel and if you see it needs more salt, add more to the breadcrumbs, but you can't take out the salt you already added if your shnitzel is too salty.
3. Heat a frying pan on a medium/high heat and add oil. I tend to use coconut oil or sunflower oil for this, but any non too strongly flavored oil will do. (You don't want to use olive oil or toasted sesame oil, for example.)
4. Put your chicken breast pieces in the egg mixture, making sure to coat the chicken pieces entirely.
5. Shake off the excess egg mixture, then dip the egged chicken in the bread crumb mixture, coating it entirely with breading.
6. Shake off the excess bread crumbs, then place carefully in the hot oil, making sure not to splatter yourself, and making sure the chicken breast has been placed completely flat in the pan and isn't folded over at all.
7. Repeat with other pieces of chicken until the frying pan is filled.
8. Cook until the breading starts to change color, either turning golden or browning, depending on its original color. Flip over and fry the other side until its color also changes.
9. Remove from pan and place on a cloth napkin to absorb the excess oil.
10. Repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces.
Notes: Check to make sure the shnitzel is fully cooked by cutting a piece across its thickest part and making sure it isn't pink inside. Thinner pieces cook more quickly, so make sure to remove them from the pan quickest, and thicker pieces might need to be left in a bit longer. Make sure though not to overcook the chicken, as that'll make it icky. If you remove a piece from the pan and see it is still somewhat raw on the inside, just return it to the pan to finish cooking.
Shnitzel tastes best freshly cooked and hot or at room temperature at a later point. Reheating shnitzel will often dry it out, so be very careful with that.
Shnitzel travels beautifully, and is a terrific on the go meal.
You can also bake your shnitzels, but I prefer them fried as I'm able to check more easily to make sure they don't become overcooked, and the oil they're cooked in helps them stay succulent and moist. I don't have exact instructions how long or how to bake them- you'll have to wing it.
What do you do with the leftover bread crumbs and eggs? Scroll down.
Gluten Free Chicken Shnitzel
To make your shnitzel gluten free, you follow the same instructions as above, only you make your own "breading mixture", as below. Of course you can just use gluten free bread crumbs, but I try not to buy any commercially prepared food (as it is usually much more expensive... times a million if you're gluten free!!! and most likely much less healthy), so I don't buy gluten free bread crumbs... and I still haven't made gluten free bread yet (ok, one failed disgusting attempt) other than my gluten free flatbread... But even once I have a good recipe for that, I doubt I'll be making gluten free bread often, as it is just so much work when you grind your own flours in a coffee grinder...
I'm blabbering on and on, but basically, if you have gluten free bread crumbs, use them.
Otherwise, read on.
Standard gluten free shnitzel recipes generally call for ground almonds, but you know me. I like frugal. Ground almonds? Meh. Not so frugal. In fact, pretty darn expensive.
Fortunately, I found an alternative that works so well and is tremendously cheaper! (Locally, they're about 1/3 of the price of almonds.)
Ground sunflower seeds! Tastes awesome, and by grinding it coarsely, it resembles bread crumbs in texture.
Yes, you can also just bread the chicken breast in any gluten free flour, but the texture isn't as nice in my opinion.
This recipe is also good for people on a low carb diet, either for diet or for health reasons.
Ingredients for Gluten Free "Breading":
Potato starch, corn starch, or tapioca starch
Onion powder/onion flakes
1. Place your (shelled) sunflower seeds in your food processor. Add some potato starch, corn starch, or tapioca starch. The exact amount isn't important- I usually do 2 or 3 parts sunflower seeds, 1 part starch. Because the sunflower seeds are oily, the starch absorbs the excess moisture so you actually get crumbs instead of sunflower seed paste, or sun butter (a peanut butter replacement).
2. Grind until you get the texture and coarseness you like. I don't mind leaving mine somewhat chunky with a few whole pieces of sunflower seeds (as you can see in the above picture), but if you want it finer, just grind for longer.
3. Season with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, and salt.
4. Use in place of bread crumbs in the regular shnitzel recipe above, and follow all the instructions there to cook your shnitzels to perfection!
Ok, so you have all your leftover bread crumbs and egg mixture from making your shnitzel. What do you do now?
1. Save it for later! The crumb mixture freezes fine! Just make sure that when you remove it from the freezer you remember that raw meat touched it, so you make sure to cook it completely to kill any possible bacteria from the raw meat.
2. Bread other things with the same breading and egg mixture. This recipe is also exactly the same recipe I use to bread my zucchini, eggplant, fish, etc... You can use this bread crumb mixture in any place that calls for bread crumbs (except for something where the bread crumbs are the main binder, like in bread crumb cookies or gluten free matza balls), like breaded noodles or as casserole toppings.
3. Mix the breading mixture with the egg mixture and a bit of baking soda, make them into patties, and fry. These were always such a treat for me growing up- they taste quite yummy. I call them "shnitzel patties" and give them to my kids to eat immediately when I'm making shnitzels to serve at a later point but they want food right away.
Do you eat breaded and fried chicken breast, aka shnitzels? How do you make yours? What do you put in your breading mixture? Your egg? How do you cook yours? Do you stretch your chicken breasts as far as I stretch mine, or no? How many shnitzels do you get from each side of chicken breast?
What do you do with your left over breading?
Whether you've made or had shnitzel before, or if you've never had or made this dish, do you think you'd try out my recipe? Which one? The gluten one, or the gluten free one?
What types of foods do you make with bread crumbs in your house?
And oh, one other question- anyone agree with me regarding white meat chicken? Any good suggestions how to not overcook and dry out your white meat when cooking a whole chicken? (The closest thing I've gotten is by slathering the whole chicken with coconut oil or mayo before baking, but even that doesn't always have perfect results.)
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