I spent all day yesterday thinking about creativity and what my one project would be for that day. I doodled a little, even tried to illustrate a picture of Buck because he had puppy school and I thought it would be fun(ny) to make a line drawing of him with the command “Leave it!” in big bold letters. Turns out I still don’t enjoy drawing and dogs are difficult, especially curly headed ones. The day came and went and I didn’t have anything to show for it.
I had plans to make a big batch of chicken cutlets last night anyway, so I was certain that getting in the kitchen didn’t “count.” Making dinner is necessary, not creative.
Still thinking about what I would do creatively, I put on my favorite easy-listening station on Spotify and sharpened my knife. I sliced the chicken breasts as thin as I could, then set up my breading station. I decided to use my electric skillet so I could control the heat, and I got to work.
As I was frying, and dancing a little, and sipping wine, and deciding which ones needed more time and which ones were done, and thinking about all of the other iterations a simple breaded chicken cutlet could be, it hit me. This is art.
I love to cook, to be in the kitchen with loved ones dancing to music. I feel at home there and back to my roots. When I was searching for a creative outlet in 2010, living in a shoebox of an apartment with little to no room for painting supplies, I cooked. I played with texture and color and flavor, I tried new things and learned new skills.
Cooking used to be the main event of my evening, the thing I would most look forward to during my day. Doing the very thing I did last night, I would gather my ingredients and get to work. It was rarely the end result that mattered–I cooked and ate some weird and funky meals back then and not all of them were winners. The food was secondary. It was the making it and the stories that went along with it, the problem solving, risk taking, and thinking about what I’m going to say the next day on the blog.
I was in motion, I was creating for creations sake, for my sake.
This is what I remembered last night and it was the same revelation I came to 8 years ago. Getting in the kitchen and making something with my hands, even if it’s something I’ve made many times before, is always good.
Here’s a recipe of sorts, more like my general guideline, for how I make chicken cutlets. The amounts will vary depending on how many cutlets you want to make, but I’ll make a general assessment below. They’re a great blank canvas; we had ours as chicken parm with pasta and marinara sauce, but you could add some lemon and capers, or mushrooms and masala, or put them on a bun and call it a sandwich. They also freeze and reheat well, so if you’ve got the fryer out, you may as well make a big batch.
Simple Fried Chicken Cutlets
- 4 large Chicken breasts, sliced 1/4 inch thick and pounded so that they’re an even thickness. From 4 pretty thick chicken breasts I was able to get 12 cutlets–three from each breast.
- 1 cup All Purpose Flour
- 3 Eggs
- 2-3 cups Panko bread crumbs. I ALWAYS need more than I initially put in my breading station. Keep the panko handy.
- Salt and Pepper
- Seasonings–I used Italian herbs like dried oregano, thyme, and garlic powder
- Vegetable oil or other flavorless, high heat oil
- Set up a breading station: in a large shallow bowl or plate, add the flour. In another bowl, add the eggs and beat them until smooth. In the same sized plate or bowl as the flour, add the bread crumbs. Season the bread crumbs with salt, pepper, and whatever other seasonings you choose. Taste the bread crumbs and if it still tastes bland, add more seasonings.
- Bread the chicken cutlets: one by one, add them to the flour and make sure they’re coated well on each side. Then dip in the eggs and let any excess egg drip off. Next put the cutlet in the bread crumbs. Press and cover and flip until the entire cutlet is well coated in bread crumbs. Place the breaded cutlet on a large sheet pan or cutting board and repeat until all cutlets are breaded. Try not to let them overlap on the sheet pan or cutting board.
- Add about 1/2 inch of oil in a electric skillet or frying pan. The size will dictate how much oil you need. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. The oil is ready for frying when you drop a small piece of breadcrumbs into the oil and it bubbles. Using tongs and being very careful, add the chicken in a single layer, making sure each cutlet has enough room. For me, I was able to fry 3 at a time. Fry each cutlet for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until each side is deeply golden brown.
- When finished, transfer to a paper-towel lined cookie sheet and continue until all the chicken is fried.
- Serve any which way you want!
*To freeze: let cool completely then wrap the cutlets 2 at a time tightly in plastic wrap. Place the cutlet pairs in a freezer bag and freeze. When ready to reheat, thaw in the microwave to get the chill off, then reheat in an 375 degree oven until cooked through and golden brown.