After revision hip surgery last October, I was obligated to become a resting, listless Jabba the Hut for two months. Add to that the mandatory, hearty winter meals and endless temptations sent by my Laithwaite Wine Club, a few pounds snuck onto my body. Ok. Quite a few pounds.
So in the spirit of getting ready for speedo season, I decided to shed those pounds. I'm back in the gym and made the required changes in my diet to facilitate my goal. No more wine on weekdays and all meals consist of protein and vegetables only.
As a devout student of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who dedicated his life to good food and drink, I was worried about the pronounced onset of foodstuff boredom. Fortunately, I have found enough variety in my daily menus to eliminate any threat of weariness...and I've managed to drop five pounds in week one. And boy, did that wine taste f*cking great last night.
Today I'm going to share with you a Melissa Clark recipe that I made yesterday for supper. It was an absolutely awesome meal, in large part because of the incredible vinaigrette and the crispy chicken schnitzel. Fortunately, for me and you, Austrian chef Mario Lohninger imparted this schnitzel wisdom to Melissa:
"The secret, he said, is to trap air in the crust when you cook the meat by moving and shaking the pan. After dipping the veal in flour, egg and bread crumbs, he put a cutlet in the skillet, swirling it so the hot oil undulated over the cutlet in waves. This motion creates steam that lifts the crust away from the meat, allowing the bread crumbs to crisp without sticking to the veal in a gummy mass."
And he was right. By moving the pan back and forth and thus, the oil across the top of the chicken, I ended up with a crisp, light schnitzel with a crust that rose like a soufflé. It was spectacular on the tongue and surprisingly easy to prepare. Try it. You'll like it. Melissa's recipe serves four.
6 anchovy fillets
1 small garlic clove
Freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups panko or other unseasoned bread crumbs
½ cup flour
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Vegetable oil, for frying
5 ounces arugula or mixed baby greens
2 cups soft herb leaves, like a combination of mint, tarragon, basil, parsley, cilantro, chervil, chives (try to use at least 3 kinds)
1 scallion, thinly sliced, including greens
- Mince anchovies and garlic and mix with a large pinch of salt until you get a rough paste. Put it in bowl and whisk in the lemon zest, juice and another pinch of salt and some pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
- Place eggs in one shallow dish, bread crumbs in another, and flour mixed with cayenne and nutmeg in a third.
- Place breasts in a plastic bag and use a meat hammer to pound the breasts to a uniform thickness. Season chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat 1/8 inch oil in a large skillet. While oil heats, dip cutlets one by one into flour (shake off any excess), then into eggs (ditto) and finally into the bread crumbs, taking care not to handle chicken more than necessary (hold meat by ends).
- When oil sizzles when a pinch of bread crumbs is thrown in, add a chicken cutlet (or two if your skillet is large, leave plenty of room around them). Swirl pan so oil cascades over top of cutlet in waves. When bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes, flip and brown the other side, swirling pan (swirling helps create air pockets, giving you lighter schnitzel). Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking platter or baking tray and sprinkle with more salt. Repeat with remaining chicken.
- Toss salad greens and herbs with just enough anchovy-lemon dressing to lightly coat them. Divide salad on serving plates and top with schnitzel. Drizzle with more dressing and garnish with scallions. Serve.
Wine pairing: A big, fruity Merlot.
Happy 21st birthday to my son, Sean. Have fun in Amsterdam!