The gist is simple — chicken breasts are sliced thin, then pounded even thinner. Sure, this is a process that by way of violence renders the meat pretty tender. But the real magic is in the cooking. Chicken this thin — about 1/4 inch — cooks so fast it barely needs heat. And that means the breasts stay moist.
But we're not done yet. These chicken cutlets also get a sweet-spicy-crunchy coating thanks to a quick dredge through breadcrumbs seasoned with paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, black pepper and — ready for the secret ingredient? — sugar.
While you could quickly pan-fry these breaded cutlets, I like to ease of the oven. Very fast and no mess. What happens next is up to you. I like to eat them just as is, but you also could slap the cutlets between slices of sourdough bread with a bit of mayo. They also are terrific sliced and tossed with a Caesar salad, or mounded over a pile of barley.
SWEET-AND-SPICY PANKO-CRUSTED CHICKEN
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Heat the oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat it with cooking spray.
In a pie pan or a large, shallow bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, sugar, garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, salt, chili powder and black pepper. Set aside. Crack the eggs into a similar bowl, then lightly beat them with the flour.
Carefully slice each chicken breast in half horizontally to create 2 thin cutlets. To do this, place each breast on a cutting board. Hold the breast in place with the palm of one hand while using a knife to carefully slice across the length of the breast horizontally. One at a time, place each cutlet between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to gently pound each cutlet until uniformly about 1/4 inch thick.
One at a time, dredge each cutlet through the egg-flour mixture until lightly coated. Shake off any excess, then dredge the cutlet through the seasoned breadcrumbs. Set the cutlet on the prepared baking sheet, then repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Mist the tops of the cutlets with cooking spray.
Bake for 7 minutes, then flip the cutlets and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.
Nutrition information per serving: 310 calories; 50 calories from fat (16 per cent of total calories); 5 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 190 mg cholesterol; 32 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 32 g protein; 620 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org