Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sharing recipes, sharing the love.

Sharing Fish by Thomas Cooper Gotch courtesy Wikimedia Commons
There is a unique genetic quality that appears to run in my family, like muscular legs and nice eyes: every blood relative loves to cook—grandmother, mother, sisters, nephew, nieces, daughters, sons, and grand children.  The siblings in my family have often said, “Yeah, our childhood was nuts but the food was awesome.”  My mom grew up on a small farm in northern New Jersey with her immigrant parents and she was raised to be a fabulous cook. There was an intertwining importance that she placed on good food, proper cooking and health, and this “language of love” made an impact that seemed to transfer on to everyone. Furthermore, I was fortunate to have grown up in the same neighborhood as my Home Economics teacher who taught us the simple basics of cooking in 6th through 8th grade. Not only did I have her as a teacher in school but I could observe over many years her strong tradition of cooking for her family from her husband’s garden and preparing the food in traditional nutritious ways.  I was blessed with some great role models. I will never forget in class sautéing thin slices of onions and celery in a little homemade butter with green peas, making “Oriental Peas.” After tasting what was prepared, I started loving vegetables in a way that I never had before. Who knew celery, onions and peas tasted so sweet and yummy together.

When I am feeling a little lost about things in life, my go-to creative place is the kitchen and/or the garden. Pardon the pun but I get grounded outside in the garden and then fulfilled with delicious food in the kitchen.  Another behavior that helps me through any down-in-the-doldrums day is sharing great food with people I love and who love me in return. That said, my niece Vicky and I have been sharing some easy yet delicious recipes lately. One of Vicky’s friends is from Italy and, thus, she has eaten some marvelous food with a great Italian spin at the hands of her friend. She was sharing with me the taste sensation of cooking her friend’s Italian chicken cutlets' recipe and I was drooling just listening to it over the phone. I had to have that recipe—the saliva needed satisfaction. She shared it with me; I was as excited as a dog with a butcher's beef bone. Both Vicky and I cook from the hip, which means to say we sometimes say a handful of this and a pinch or two of that. So forgive me because I had to transfer handfuls and pinches into common measurements when I typed up the recipe to share. I believe it is close to its succulent success.

When my grand-daughter Tay visited on Saturday, we could not wait to fix up this chicken dish. We almost swooned from food passion after consuming these cutlets. What sets them apart, we believe, is the minced fresh garlic and Italian parsley which co-mingles with the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese to make a very crispy crust on the outside yet maintains a tender moist inside. Without further ado I am sharing the recipe and a few photos of Tay preparing Vicky’s friend's Italian Chicken Cutlets.

Cooking the Italian Chicken Cutlets

  • ¼ C. peanut oil or a good vegetable oil for sautéing (unless you have an allergy to peanut oil, using it really puts a "crisp" on the chicken and the flavor is divine)
  • 4 range free/hormone free chicken breasts (pounded thin between plastic wrap and sliced into strips)
  • 2-3 eggs beaten with a little milk, salt and pepper (use a large bowl)

  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs (your favorite brand --make sure they are fresh and not a few years old)
  • 3 T. of flour
  • ½ C. of grated or shredded Parmesan cheese (I think I had freshly shredded on hand)
  • 3-4 T. FRESH Italian Parsley minced fine (use more if you love a hint of green all over)
  • 4-5 cloves of FRESH garlic minced (use more if you love garlic)

Soaking chicken tenders in egg mixture

Rinse chicken breasts in water and dry lightly with paper towels. Place one breast at a time between two large pieces of plastic wrap on a flat surface and pound them with a rolling pin until they are of even thinness. You can get some angst out pounding away at chicken breasts. Next, slice the breasts into thin strips about 1 ½ inches wide. Place chicken strips into the bowl containing the egg mixture and let them sit there for about 20 minutes to ½ hour.

Meanwhile, while chicken is taking an egg soak, on cutting board mince up the fresh garlic and parsley. Next, combine garlic and parsley together with the rest of the ingredients (breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and flour) in a wide casserole type container, I used a glass casserole dish. Make sure the garlic, parsley and cheese are spread evenly throughout breadcrumb mixture which will coat the chicken strips.

Dip egg soaked chicken into breadcrumb/cheese/garlic mixture

Here is the fun messy part. Take a few strips of chicken out of the egg mixture and roll them around in the breadcrumb/cheese garlic mixture and set aside until all pieces are well coated (see photo above). Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium/high heat until a drop of water skitters across the pan and sizzles. Fry about 4-5 chicken strips at a time (this keeps the oil at a good high temperature) for about 3 minutes per side (the length of time depends on your stove -- my gas range transfers heat differently than an electric range).
Sauteing until golden brown and crispy
Transfer the cooked strips onto a cookie sheet and place in a 250 degree oven to keep warm until all of the chicken is cooked. Look for a golden crisp crust on outside but still moist and tender inside. The chicken will continue cooking in oven. Do not overcook! We served them with fluffy mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and fresh carrots. Too die for delicious!
Seconds anyone? Nope they did not last - yummy
I guess Pillsbury was right with their slogan "nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven."

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