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Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Bold N the Beautiful –Chicken Schnitzel

The Charm of a Crispy Chicken Schnitzel with lime zest, Cardamom, Cinnamon with Sweet Chili Garlic Sauce and Wasabi Yogurt Raita 

Let’s utter the truth in the first sentence- a chicken schnitzel is intoxicating, exciting, amazing. If you have never tried this before, it can change the way you eat chicken after you eat this, let me assure you that. It will make you fall in love with it from the first bite, it will take control of your mind and make you cook this again n again- well fair enough-especially when it tastes this good n rather easy to cook, just remember the magic sequence- flour-egg-breadcrumbs.

The chicken schnitzel is a chicken cutlet, schnitzel is the German word for cutlet, the term is applied to chicken or meat that is coated in bread n fried until crispy and there lies the magic apart from the flavor- it is the crispy texture of the food that is so appealing to us, the bread coating with the egg beneath it- gets crispy n flavorsome in the process of frying and the chicken inside stays soft n juicy- this is the kind of food which makes my eyes closed when I’m eating them- you know what I mean…bliss.

Now you know me, I love to incorporate flavor in my food n I have not got very straight hands even when cooking a traditional recipe, I will eventually modify it. Thankfully there is no set recipe for chicken schnitzel, I mean there is but it’s flexible and almost in every country we will find food in this structure. Here in this part of India I grew up eating chicken culet n chicken Kobiraji cutlet all the time, so it is kinda in my genes. By the way let me tell you that chicken Kobiraji cutlet is a cutlet covered with crispy egg all around it n it is total fried heaven.

So talking about flavor, I begin by marinating the chicken breast overnight with lime juice, minced ginger n garlic, dry rosemary, sliced red chili, a touch of salt n sugar, if you have skipped overnight marination, give it 2-3 hours. Marination does help in two ways, first it incorporates flavor into the flesh, second it makes the chicken soft because the lime juice is an acid so it starts breaking down the protein molecules slowly, and as the result of marination the chicken breast stays soft n juicy n flavorful when being fried. So I would normally never skip marination but if you have got no time at all… you can skip it.

The second stage of flavors come after I make the chicken breast go thin with a meat hammer, you need a meat hammer to beat the chicken breast until it goes quite thin like 1/2 cm in thickness or a little more, you can also do this with a heavy rolling pin, you have to place the chicken breast inside a zip lock bag or between two plastic sheets or like I do it-directly over my chopping board.

Once the breast have been flattened to uniform thickness I sprinkle the roasted black pepper, green cardamom, cinnamon powder over it and it is ready for getting coated in breadcrumbs.

It is a very good idea to make your own breadcrumbs; the flavors are far more better than if you use store-bought breadcrumbs. I take a day or two old white bread, on a flat thick pan I toast the bread over medium low heat until it gets light brown, then take them off the heat n then blend them in a blender or food processor until it is crumbly n I don’t make it go smooth, neither will you.

I love raita, the tang of the yogurt goes well with the crispy rich schnitzel, in my raita I have introduced the sweet pungency of Japanese Wasabi- it gives raita a new flavor dimension, in the raita you can also add chopped cucumber along with red onion n tomatoes.

Another sauce that is just so good to eat with the schnitzel is the sweet chili garlic sauce, the heat from the red chili, the sweetness, the touch of vinegar- I tell you it’s mouth-watering with the schnitzel n it takes just 7 minutes to make it, that’s all.

But let’s just say you don’t wanna make any sauce, you know what! Tomato ketchup…oh yes, break apart your schnitzel n dip them in the thick tomato sauce n I don’t know what to say again. The schnitzel is just very good on its own, I love it hot n cold equally, and so will you, I love to carry these kinda food to your workplace or on a journey, so now I will take you to the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need

For the Schnitzel:
Chicken Breast- 1 about 250 gm, made boneless
Egg-1 big
Breadcrumb- made from 2 big slices of white bread which is about 1 cup
Flour- 3-5 tbsp
Garlic-1 small clove
Ginger- ½ inch
Lime juice-juice from ½ a lime
Lime zest- from 1 lime
Rosemary- A pinch
Green cardamom-1, slightly roasted n powdered
Cinnamon-1 inch piece, slightly roasted n powdered
Black pepper- ½ tbsp, slightly roasted n powdered
Red chili powder- a pinch
Salt –to taste
Sugar- a pinch
Vegetable oil- soybean/sunflower oil to shallow fry, about 1 ½ cup

For the Sweet Chili Garlic Sauce:
Red chili fresh-1
Red chili dry-1
Garlic clove- 2, finely chopped
Rice Vinegar- 4 tbsp
Sugar- 1 tbsp
Water- 4 tbsp
Salt- a pinch

For the Wasabi Raita :
Yogurt- 5 tbsp
Red onion- ½ medium, chopped
Tomato- ½, chopped
Green chili-1 sliced
Curry leaves- leaves from 1 stalk
Mustard seeds- ½ tsp
Wasabi paste- ½ tbsp
Sugar- ¼ tsp
Salt –to taste
Pink rock salt- a pinch

1. First of all take a boneless chicken breast and marinate it with lime juice, lime zest, minced garlic n ginger, dry rosemary, a pinch of salt n a pinch of sugar, keep it overnight, covered in a plastic container preferably n not in a metal container, if you have forgotten to do it before give it 3 hours to marinate.
2. For making the breadcrumbs, place the bread on a flat tawa/pan on medium low heat, and  make them go light brown in color which will take about 6/8 minutes on medium low flame, then put them off the pan, after they cool down a bit, tear them n place them in a blender n blend them until they get uniformly crumbled n small in size, we don’t want a smooth powder, so work carefully, we still want small size granules of bread in the final texture.
3. To make the sweet chili garlic sauce, place all the ingredients in a pan over medium low heat n simmer for about 8-10 minutes until it thickens a bit, that’s all.
4. To make the wasabi raita, whisk the yogurt until it is smooth, season with salt, sugar, pink rock salt, then add onion, tomato n green chili n wasabi paste, mix well. In a frying pan take 1 tsp of oil n when the oil is hot add the mustard seeds, as they pop add the curry leaves and remove from fire, add this whole thing into the yogurt n mix well, set aside.
5. After marinating place the breast on a chopping board or between two plastic sheets and with a meat hammer or heavy rolling pin beat the breast to flatten n thin it uniformly, so start beating first in the middle portion where the breast is thick and work outwards. Don’t beat it fiercely though but firmly, have a look while you are beating at which parts are getting thinner quickly, so you need to avoid those places so that it stays uniformly thick, finally the breast will tenderize n expand in size, you want a thickness of ½ cm all across.
6. Season the flat breast with salt n the powdered cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, pinch of red chili on both sides. Tale 3 flat plates, in one sprinkle the flour uniformly over the plate, in the 2nd beat the egg uniformly, in the 3rd spread the breadcrumbs uniformly.
7. Place the flat breast first on flour, press n flip for the other side to coat, now see the areas which are still not coated, coat both the sides carefully until it is coated all over, then shake off excess flour. Then place the breast in egg mixture n coat uniformly on both sides, drip off excess egg then place it on top of the breadcrumbs, press lightly, then flip n coat it on this side, Keep it on a dry place for a minute, then pick it n coat it in egg again, then place it in the breadcrumbs again n press well, flip n do the same, press lightly so the breadcrumbs stick to the breast uniformly, finally place it on the dry plate.
8. In a shallow flat frying pan heat the vegetable oil on medium heat, the oil should be moderately hot, to test drop a piece of bread in the oil n it should begin to sizzle with bubbles n in about 15 sec it will go brown, if the oil is too hot the outside layer of bread will go brown while the chicken won’t be cooked inside, so when the oil is medium hot place the chicken cutlet carefully in the oil, it should begin to sizzle, increase the flame to high for 7 seconds then turn the flame to minimum, check with a fork after 2 minutes lifting up the cutlet how much browning has happened, it should be light brown, give it another 2-3 minutes, we don’t want the cutlet to be very dark brown, so when the lower side is well browned, flip it carefully n give it another 4-6 minutes, until that side also gets well browned. When you achieve this take it out on a plate on paper napkins to soak the extra oil, don’t cover the schnitzel.

Wow and its ready! Time to taste, first look at the crispy schnitzel and touch it to feel the texture, smell it n then take your first bite without any sauce, I can hear the sound of crunch as you munch on, crunchy heaven….so  good isn’t it? Go on munching…Bon Appétit.

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