Monday, April 7, 2008

Lemon and Parmesan Breaded Chicken Cutlet with Roast Potatoes and Nutmeg'd Spinach

My apologies for the wordy title! I swear I'm not putting on airs.

If I was pressed to name one, I would say that this is currently my favorite dinner. The spinach takes about 3 minutes to cook, while the chicken and potatoes involve very little heavy kitchen labor. The final creation is almost effortlessly satisfying and tasty. It's not haute cuisine, but I love it on a Monday night.

The chicken is a basic breaded chicken cutlet, jazzed up a bit with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. The roast potatoes are how I make them when I have no fresh herbs on hand--very rushed weeknight, dahhhling. I got the preparation for the spinach from the vegetable chapter of Delia Smith's How to Cook. If you've never seen it, she lists almost every vegetable that you can buy in the grocery store and gives a couple of ideas for simple ways to prepare them. It's a great resource for the days when you don't care how, you just want to get a vegetable on the table.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg

3 medium russet potatoes, unpeeled and cut in 1/2 - 3/4 inch dice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 10-ounce bag of washed and trimmed spinach leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Olive oil
Salt and pepper

You should start the potatoes first, since they take the longest to cook. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the cut-up potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle some olive oil over them--anywhere from 1 to 2 tablespoons. Season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle the dried thyme on top, making sure to rub it between your finger tips while doing so to release its herb-i-ness. Using clean hands, toss the potatoes with the oil and seasonings, making sure all pieces are coated. Bake for 20 minutes, then take the baking sheet out. Using a sturdy spatula, toss the potatoes around so they brown evenly. Bake for another 20 minutes.

You will need two dinner plates and a pie plate (or cake pan) for coating the chicken cutlets. Place the flour on one plate and sprinkle in about 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss with a fork to distribute the seasonings. On the other plate, spread out the breadcrumbs. Using your finger tips, toss the lemon zest and Parmesan through the breadcrumbs. Crack open the egg in the pie plate. Add about a tablespoon of water to the egg and whisk lightly but thoroughly.

Cover the chicken breast pieces with a piece of plastic wrap and pound to a uniform thickness. (Note: the world will not end if you skip this step--it just helps the chicken to cook evenly) Take off the plastic wrap. In a large skillet, warm up 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. One at a time, dip the chicken pieces first in the flour, shaking off excess. Coat with the egg, and then press the chicken into the breadcrumbs, using your fingers to help them adhere to the egg. Lay the chicken in the skillet and let cook for about 4 or 5 minutes on the first side, 3 minutes on the other side. Times will vary based on the thickness of the chicken and the heat of your pan. The chicken is cooked when it feels unyielding to the touch. Set the chicken pieces on a paper towel-lined plate to blot off the excess oil.

For the spinach, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over high heat. Throw in the spinach leaves, season with salt, and cover the pot. After one minute, uncover the pot and stir the spinach around, getting the unwilted pieces on top to the bottom. Cover and let cook for another minute. When all of the spinach is totally wilted, remove it to a colander. Press down on the spinach with a wooden spoon to drain the excess water out of it. Put the spinach back in the pot and season with a little more salt, some pepper, and the nutmeg. Stir to distribute the seasonings and let the spinach sit in the warm pot for a minute or so.

Plate and serve! It's nice with a bit of fresh lemon juice squeezed on the chicken and spinach, but it's not mandatory.

Rating: This is awesome

You know how I feel--this is an excellent basic, hunger-killing dinner.

1 comment:

Bob Schechter said...

Thanks! I got a new electric skillet last week and came across your chicken recipe. It came out awesome! So much so, I made it again two nights later. Perfection. I think the lemon zest in the breadcrumbs is what makes it special.