Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Chicken Milanese with Caramelized Onions
The meal you choose to cook at any given time is the function of many things, but for a Foodie - a person interested in the truth and experience of food, it's really about two things: ingredients on hand and creativity. Not everything needs to be extraterrestrial, because a good bowl of broth can be just as satisfying as a dish that looks like food version of the Pageant of the Masters. It's really about honing your ability to take one element, a technique, an ingredient, a taste, and transform that into a decent meal on your plate.
Tonight I knew one thing - I wanted Panko fried onto something. The 'something' left me a few choices...shrimp, chicken, maybe a root vegetable steamed, mashed and rolled into a ball? From one ingredient, you tend to imagine the next. For me, it was chicken. Every time, the plate just builds and builds in my mind until I imagine a finished dish. You see, if you're going to fry chicken breasts with Panko, you probably want something soft, but minor, to accompany it. Maybe a gremolata? Maybe even a small salad? I love onions, so I opted for caramelized onions. Something I also had on hand.
the carrots? Well, I didn't have any other vegetable of substance in my fridge, so there was really no choice involved. Yes, if it was up to me, I wouldn't feel the need to desecrate my plate with a vegetable, but that's part of my agreement with my wife - if I cook, there should be a vegetable.
Anyway, you start to see the picture of how this works.
But back to meal choices real quick. It's always pleasing to balance textures. A crispy chicken breast needs to be balanced with something not crispy...another reason why the carrots complimented the meal.
2-3 chicken tenders or 1 chicken breast per person. Pounds this out between sheets of plastic wrap or inside a freezer bag. These don't need to be paper thin...maybe 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick. If you use a full breast, you'll probably want to butterfly it and then pound it out. Once it's ready, I salt, pepper and garlic those bad boys generously. Then I sprinkle Panko all about and smash it into all sides. You'll fry these in a few tablespoons of medium-hot oil. They probably need a couple of minutes per side. Once they're on your plate, squeeze a bit of lemon to brighten them up.
This is really about slow cooking. Slice an onion and get a pan going medium. Add 2 Tbs oil, and add onions, stirring well. Keep the temperature high enough to keep them cooking, but low enough so as not to brown them. When I say "brown them," I mean the kind of browning that comes from a high heat. You will see the onions turn brown, but it will be a translucent brown from the breakdown of the sugars- that's a good thing. Stir constantly and you'll have beautiful caramelized onions in 20 minutes or so.