Breaded Chicken

This is one of the simplest recipes I know. I actually don’t even need the recipe, which for me is rare. It’s just simple breaded chicken, sauteed in a pan until browned all over. You can use chicken cutlets or chicken tenders, but the key is to use a thin cut of chicken, not a thick chicken breast. If chicken breasts are what you have to work with, then slice them lengthwise to make thinner pieces.

My mom used to make this and I remember helping her by dipping the chicken in the egg and breadcrumbs. My mom said I was “the best” at dipping the chicken, which isn’t really difficult to do, but I still remember it because it made me feel so proud at the time.

You only need a small number of ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand in your kitchen anyway. I’m approximating the amounts below just to give you a general idea of how much to use, but you’ll be able to figure it out yourself in no time.
Chicken
Serves 4

2 eggs
1 cup of seasoned Italian breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs with your favorite seasonings — try onion powder, dried parsley, and salt and pepper)
Olive oil
4 chicken cutlets (or enough chicken pieces for four people — maybe 8 tenders, or 2 chicken breasts sliced lengthwise)

In a wide bowl, lightly beat the two eggs. Put the breadcrumbs in a second wide bowl and set the two bowls side by side next to the stove.

In a large skillet, heat about 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. As it heats, dip each chicken piece fully in the egg, then dredge it in the breadcrumbs, making sure they’re covered. When the pan is hot, add the chicken pieces and fry until browned on both sides. Add more olive oil as needed while they cook. When they’re done, put them on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain.

Moussaka

IMAG1902This dish is easy but takes a very long time to make, so it’s probably best for a Sunday supper or a special meal. You can make it up to two days ahead, if you like, and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake it.

IMAG1898To make things a bit easier, I recommend having all the ingredients mise en place before you begin cooking.

Serves 8-10, depending on how large you like your portions

3 medium eggplants, sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup olive oil
1 cup flour
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. lean ground meat (lamb or turkey)
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
35 oz. canned peeled tomatoes, drained well and chopped (I puncture the tomatoes with my thumb in the colander, then lightly squeeze them to drain them further)
2/3 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream (you can use regular cream or even half-and-half if you want to lighten things a little)

Place the eggplant slices on paper towels and sprinkle with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in medium saucepan boil the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 of the oil over high heat. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour; shake off any excess. Add the eggplant to the skillet in batches and fry over high heat, using more of the oil as necessary, until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove and let drain on paper towels.

Add to the skillet about 3 Tbsp. oil and turn the heat to moderate. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the meat and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no trace of pink remains.

Drain the meat if necessary (for turkey, I didn’t have to), then return it to the pan. Stir in the tomato paste, cinnamon, thyme, and pepper. Cook for another minute, stirring to blend the flavors. Tranfer to a large bowl and add the tomatoes, potatoes, and feta and stir well to combine.

Line the bottom and sides of a 5- to 6-quart shallow baking dish (I used a 12×15-inch pan) with eggplant, overlapping them slightly. Reserve some slices for the top.

Spoon the meat mixture into the baking dish. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and cream, then pour it over the meat. Cover with the reserved eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly if you can. (The moussaka can be prepared ahead until this point.)

Bake until the top is nicely browned, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Lemon Sauce

A gourmet-tasting recipe that’s easy to make, great for a weekday night or as an easy way to impress guests. It’s another old one from my cookbook that I’ve never made — I clipped it from the newspaper more than eight years ago. It originally called for turkey cutlets, but I made mine with chicken and served stuffing alongside it to soak up the sauce.

Serves 4 (or 3 hungry people)

16-20 oz. turkey cutlets, or chicken breast cut into wide strips
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium lemons
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch (cornflour)
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley (I used dried parsley to save time)

Pound cutlets between plastic wrap/cling film to 1/4-inch thickness. Rub them with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot, then add the cutlets. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden. Transfer to platter and keep warm.

Thinly slice one lemon and place slices in a bowl. From the other lemon, grate 1/2 tsp. zest and squeeze two tablespoons juice, then add both to the bowl. Whisk the cornstarch in the broth, then add to the bowl along with the garlic.

Pour the bowl into the same pan the chicken was cooked in and boil for about 2 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the parsley.

To serve, lay chicken on a plate and pour the sauce on top, making sure to put some lemon slices on each plate as a garnish.

Freezing Chicken Breasts

I just read about a great way to freeze chicken breasts that makes it easier to defrost only the portion you want, rather than the whole pack. The idea is similar to freezing ice cubes in a tray, where you freeze them separately and then take out only the ones you want later. Thanks to The Arnette Table for the idea!

Here it is.

Nacho Casserole

This is a recipe I’ve had in my cookbook since sometime before 1997. Its previous title never inspired me, but tonight I decided finally to make it, to see whether I’d keep it or rip it out. The result: I’m keeping it.

I have renamed it Nacho Casserole because it really is that good — though it’s much healthier than that name implies. It takes about half an hour to make and half an hour to bake.

Serves 6

1 11-oz. package corn tortillas
1 Tbsp. margarine
3 Tbsp. flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of garlic powder
Pinch of ground pepper
1 10-oz. can Rotel diced tomatoes with chiles
1 lb. ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Place tortillas on baking sheets in a single layer. Bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping them halfway through, until they’re crispy. Let cool, then break them apart and reserve. Leave the oven on.

Melt the margarine in a pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir for a minute. Do not brown. Add the chicken stock and milk and, using a whisk, stir until it comes to a boil. Add the seasonings and diced tomatoes, mixing well. Set aside.

In a skillet, brown the turkey and chopped onions. Drain well.

When everything is cooked, lay half the tortilla chips at the bottom of a 2-quart casserole. Spread the turkey over the tortillas, add the chicken stock mixture, then sprinkle with cheese. Top with remaining tortilla chips and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Five-Spice Chinese Marinade

I made this with some chicken tonight and everyone loved it. It was easy, fragrant, and delicious, bite after bite.

I adapted the recipe from one I found at Epicurious.

2/3 cup minced green onions
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup dry Sherry
2 Tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and add sliced chicken (or beef). Cover and refrigerate, marinating between one and three hours before cooking.

When ready to cook, heat a small amount of oil in a pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade with a slotted spoon and fry over medium heat until cooked through. At that point, you can serve it straight over white rice or Asian noodles, or add it to vegetables that you stir-fry until warmed through.

Santa Fe Chicken Salad

This southwestern chicken salad won my cook-off at home last night. It looks and tastes like a main-dish salad at a restaurant — big, delicious, with bite-size pieces and plenty of crunch. The recipe calls for cooked chicken, which makes this a great way to use up leftovers. If you don’t have leftovers to use, I recommend placing some chicken pieces in boiling water until cooked through, then chopping or shredding it as desired.

Serves 4-5 as main dish

6 cups Romaine lettuce, torn in pieces
4 oz. corn tortilla chips, crushed by hand, with a few whole chips saved for garnish
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. chili sauce (use a thick opaque one — I like Nando’s Hot Peri-Peri Sauce)
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce, like Tabasco
2 cups chopped or shredded chicken meat (from roughly 4 chicken breast halves)
5 green onions, chopped
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and rained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and sliced into thin wedges, then halved
2 tomatoes, cut into think wedges, then halved

Line plates or pasta bowls with lettuce, then top with chips. In small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, chili sauce and hot pepper sauce. Pour into larger mixing bowl and combine with the rest of the ingredients, tossing to make sure everything is coated. Place the mixture on top of the chips and Romaine, then garnish with a few whole chips.

For best presentation, pull out some tomato or avocado pieces from the mixture and lay them on top.