Looking out of the window earlier this morning, the garden seemed like it had been dusted with a sprinkling of finely powdered icing sugar, as a layer of frost had settled all over. Fresh, frosty mornings are always a good excuse to snuggle under the duvet for an extra five minutes (especially as it’s so cold at 5.00am), but every Wintry frost-filled day is another one closer to Spring. Evenings are beginning to stay lighter, plus we’ve had bright yellow sunshine & crisp blue skies, bringing a little hope that Winter is on the wane (although it’s been snowing up the road from here & I’m not shedding the thermals just yet).
Here we are speeding through January, the sugar-free month of sparseness & salads, wine denial & working out, when fast food becomes forbidden. Whether you’re worn out or just going without, it’s bound to make people a bit tetchy to say the least! At times like these, you need food that’s quick, easy & satisfying – when you’re not feeling up to much, the last thing you want to be doing is faffing around in the kitchen. Meals can become a bit boring if you’re not careful too. It’s far too easy to open a packet of something or do the dial-a-dinner thing, but they don’t tend to hit the spot very often or for very long (usually resulting in ransacking the cupboards for something else afterwards). This is where a little planning & preparation can help you have dinners done & dusted.
As you probably know by now, I’m a fan of being prepared & getting meals portioned up in pots, frozen for fast fixes of our favourite foods. Bread is blitzed into breadcrumbs, chucked in bags & frozen, ready for these occasions. At the weekends, I like to get a couple of chickens in & fillet them, freezing the legs in pairs (these are great for simply defrosting & chucking in the oven with some olive oil, lemon, fresh Rosemary & garlic) & the carcasses are turned into stock for risottos, soups & gravy (nothing gets wasted!). The chicken breast can be turned into a variety of dishes – my Friday Night Fakeaway or Aisha’s Kick Ass Curry spring to mind, but another favourite of ours is my baked crispy breaded chicken. This tasty panéed chicken dish is quite possibly the easiest meal to prepare, satisfying those cravings for fried fast food without actually being fried. Leftovers can be frozen for future lazy suppers, lunchtime wraps with salad or even sliced & tossed in pasta with a little homemade tomato sauce & a few roasted peppers. To pané means to coat in a little flour, egg & breadcrumbs (in my last blog, I did this with arancini to make crispy risotto balls). The only tip I will give is you need to keep one hand for the dry ingredients & one for the wet, otherwise you’ll end up with panéed fingers!
These beautiful breadcrumbed chicken pieces can be baked in the oven & dished up faster than a takeaway can be ordered & delivered (yes, really – plus they’re much cheaper & so much healthier, with no hidden ingredients). If you’re filleting a chicken, a medium sized one makes enough to feed four people generously, just add sides & a salad! Ready to try making your own? Hands washed, aprons on & here we go!
What you need:
2 large Chicken Breasts (you can get 8-10 pieces from this)
2 Eggs, beaten in a shallow dish with a tiny pinch of salt
8 slices of Bread (any bread you like)
2oz Plain Flour, in a shallow dish
Zest of a Lemon (wash it well in soapy water first!)
Quarter teaspoon Sea Salt
Quarter teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
Quarter teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme or Oregano (optional)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (about 2-3 tablespoons, but keep the bottle handy as you may need a bit more)
What to do:
Pre-heat the oven to 210*C & drizzle half the olive oil around the bottom of a roasting tin. Set aside for later.
Blitz the slices of bread, a few at a time, in a food processor until fine breadcrumbs.
Add the salt, pepper, herbs & lemon zest to the breadcrumbs, then give it a good mix. Set aside for now.
Prepare your chicken breasts. Using a sharp knife, slice them through the middle as if you were butterflying them – lay them flat on the board & slice across from left to right. Remove the small piece from underneath that looks like a mini-fillet. Taking a pair of kitchen scissors, cut out the white piece of thin tendon that will be sticking out (it won’t cook out, it will just make your chicken curl up & taste like chewy elastic).
Dip a piece of chicken in the flour & shake off the excess, then lay gently into the beaten egg.
Using your other hand (so you don’t pané your fingers), move the chicken about to coat in the egg, then shake to remove the excess.
Place the wet chicken piece into the breadcrumb mixture & coat well on both sides, patting it on to ensure even coverage.
Lay it in the roasting tin & repeat the process with all the other pieces of chicken, until all are breaded. Wash your hands thoroughly.
Drizzle the remainder of the oil generously over the chicken portions & place the tin in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes. Halfway through cooking, give it a good shake to loosen them from the tin & flip them over. Because it’s thin, the chicken will cook faster & the crumb coating will stop it drying out.
When cooked, the breadcrumbs will be golden & crispy. Test one by cutting in half – the meat should be white inside. Transfer to a warm plate & serve immediately with homemade chunky chips & a crisp green salad or corn on the cob & minted petit pois. That’s it!
These crispy, crunchy chicken portions have a slightly spicy kick, so I like to serve them with a bowl of my chilled homemade tomato sauce (it’s not just reserved for pasta) or a cooling Greek Yoghurt dip to soothe the tongue. Blue cheese dip, salsa & pesto all go well with these too, so it’s up to you how you dress them up!
These breaded beauties are perfect for supper on the sofa, snuggled up with your other half & a glass of chilled wine or fizz. If there are any extra pieces, pop them in the freezer & defrost when you need them. Just reheat at 180*C in the oven for 10-12 minutes (poke with a sharp knife to check they are piping hot before eating), or simply layer them cold in a sandwich, wrap or salad for lunch the next day. Try adding a teaspoon of pesto to a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt, spread on seeded bread & pile up with pieces of crispy chicken & snipped up sundried tomatoes for a luscious lunch.
So when you’re craving crunchy crispy chicken, forget the dial-a-dinner & bake a batch of my beautiful breadcrumbed chicken instead! Stay hungry! A 😉 x