Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fooding with Christmas Leftovers

OK, I promise to stop arbitrarily making nouns into verbs.  After making the squash casserole that I discussed previously, I found myself facing a bunch of eggs and Ritz crackers that I wasn't accustomed to using, and I wasn't excited about throwing away.  Then I found this simple and tasty recipe:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/famous-butter-chicken/detail.aspx

This recipe not only avoids migraine triggers completely, but it also presents a simple, highly useful technique.  That technique is breading chicken.  The steps:

1. Cover chicken in flour
2. Transfer chicken to egg bath
3. Coat chicken with breading

And yes, it's not QUITE that easy.  It's good to set up three trays or bowls to do this.  I find that bowls are fine for the flour and the egg, but a tray, 9x11 pan or plate with a lip are best with the breading, in order to contain the crumbs and to allow more room to move the chicken around by hand.  The first time you attempt this, you will find that you are probably breading your fingers more than you are breading the chicken, which leads us to the secret. . . wet hand/dry hand.

To use this approach, designate one hand as "wet" and one as "dry".  Take a piece of the pre-trimmed chicken (or you can leave the chicken on the bone) in the dry hand and place it in the flour.  Move it about and coat it thoroughly.  Drop the coated chicken in the egg bath with the dry hand, keeping it out of the eggs.  Now, move the chicken about in the egg bath (not TOO much or you'll lose flour), and drop it into the breading with the wet hand.  With the dry hand, sprinkle the crumbs on the uncoated side of the chicken.  Coat the chicken completely and press the crumbs into it so they stick.  Turn it over (still the dry hand) and repeat. 

Now, for the final trick.  To get the crust cooked most evently, air needs to get to the bottom.  Place a wire mesh cooling rack/cookie rack in your baking pan.  Spray it with non-stick coating.  This helps keep the breading on the chicken.  Without the rack, the bottom gets mushy and can stick a bit even if the pan is sprayed. 

The great thing about this technique is that it is extremely versatile.  You can substitute bread crumbs, panko, cornflakes, or just about anything resembling bread crumbs.  You can add herbs, parmesan, salt, pepper, cayenne or other flavor enhancers to the crumbs.  Then, you can apply whatever sauce or gravy suits the meal.  And you can drop it on a bed of rice, pasta, other grains, or maybe veggies (but be careful about making the breading soggy).  You can turn this technique into a different dish every week for months without too much imagination.  Try this and get crazy!

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