Panko-crusted chicken, three ways

April 5, 2007 on 8:50 am | By | In Recipes, Techniques | 1 Comment

Panko ChickenWhen it comes to preparing dinner for my darling and myself, I tend to be a thrower- togetherer (you’d never guess I have a degree in communications, would you?). I’m often too wiped to put a lot of thought and energy into our dinners during the week; I typically just peer into the fridge for ideas for a quick and easy meal. The other night it was chips with my darling’s homemade salsa (using up the 2 pints of grape tomatoes our neighbor gave us) and a small bowl of canned refried beans heated in the microwave. Another night it was Trader Joe’s roasted red pepper soup with cheese and crackers. Many nights it’s pizza with whatever we happen have on hand (fortunately our fridge tends to be well-stocked).

While these meals are certainly nourishing and relatively nutritionally sound, they aren’t what I consider a “true” dinner — a well-balanced and visually appealing meal of protein, vegetable and starch. They’re most definitely NOT blog-worthy (although I guess I’m contradicting myself by writing about them, aren’t I?)

At any rate, a few weeks ago I had a hankering for crispy panko-coated chicken and sauteed spinach (both adapted from Cook’s Illustrated). For the chicken, I combined a couple of techniques from CI’s “Best Light Recipe” cookbook. Rather than pan-frying, you coat the chicken with toasted panko crumbs, then bake it at high heat. Normally I dredge the chicken in flour, dip it in egg whites and then the panko, but since I wanted more flavor I used the technique from CI’s oven-fried chicken where you coat the breast in Dijon mustard and then the panko crumbs (no need to dredge in flour first).

For the spinach, I pre-heated my wok over my new turbo 16,000 BTU burner, added a bit of oil, some sliced garlic and about a half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. I quickly threw in about 10 ounces of fresh spinach and some halved grape tomatoes and stir-fried until the spinach was wilted and glistening. After plating the spinach I squirted it with some fresh lemon juice. Some prepared tri-color cheese tortellini completed the dish.

Asian Panko ChickenWe enjoyed the meal so much I started thinking about other flavor combinations. We love Asian food, so that was a natural choice. This time I mixed the toasted panko with black and white sesame seeds and dipped the chicken in a wasabi mustard. The spinach still included sliced garlic, but I substituted nanami togarashi — a Japanese seasoning blend of chili peppers, orange peel, ginger and sesame seeds — for the red pepper flakes and drizzled sesame oil on top. This was served with udon noodles tossed in sesame oil and sliced green onion.

I then spied a jar of hot mango chutney in the fridge. Perfect! Looks like Indian is up next. I mixed the panko with some curry powder and spread the chutney on the chicken breast. The chutney is pretty thick; next time I’ll either pick the mango chunks out (I tried to mash them with a fork but since I was in a hurry I didn’t do that great a job), or better yet, process the chutney in a food processor until smooth. It didn’t stick very well either, so I’d recommend dredging the chicken in flour first.

Indian Panko chickenFor the spinach, I added some golden raisins and curry powder, along with the garlic. After reading Culinary Cowgirl‘s post on naan I was inspired, so I found a recipe in the new Joy of Cooking. Can’t say it was the best naan I’ve ever had, but given it was my first time making it from scratch, I cut myself some slack. Served with steamed basmati rice, this was one tasty meal.

My next take on this? Probably Thai. I’m thinking I’ll dredge the chicken in flour, then dip it in coconut milk seasoned with Thai curry paste. I may even add some toasted coconut to the panko (now that I think about it, the coconut would be awesome in the Indian version). You could top the spinach with a peanut sauce, or forego the spinach altogether and serve a cucumber salad instead (along with Jasmine rice, of course).

Oh the many possibilities!

Master recipe for Panko-Crusted Chicken
Serves 4; adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon oil
4 6-ounce chicken breast halves
1/4 cup Dijon mustard (or mustard of your choosing)
Vegetable spray

Preheat oven to 450. Thoroughly mix panko and oil and toast over medium heat until lightly browned (stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn). Cool to room temperature.

Pat chicken breasts dry and spread with Dijon. Coat with toasted panko and place on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Spray lightly with vegetable spray and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink inside.

Master recipe for Sautéed Spinach

Serves 2; adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or sliced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
10 ounces fresh spinach
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more to taste)

Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl in pan. Add garlic cloves and red pepper flakes and saute for 30 seconds (be careful not to let garlic burn). Add spinach and lemon zest and increase heat to high. Toss until spinach is wilted and glistening and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Place on plates and drizzle with lemon juice.

1 Comment

  1. This looks like it rates 5 stars on the Pankometer, Betsy.
    I’ll have to try it.


    Comment by Kim Rogers — April 8, 2007 #

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