A couple of weeks ago, while researching rhubarb crumble recipes for the Crisps and Crumbles episode of Spilled Milk (still going strong, 52 weeks a year! and still featuring impromptu hair-metal duets!), I pulled down an old copy of Canal House Cooking, and it fell open to page 57, “Cutlets Smothered in Peas.” That’s when it dawned on me that I had somehow made it to age almost-39 without ever cooking a chicken cutlet, and that my child had somehow made it to age almost-five without ever eating a chicken cutlet. I understand this makes one subject to ridicule and rebuke not only in America, but also in many other parts of the world, including Japan, where panko-breaded, pan-fried chicken or pork cutlets (katsu) are, I hear – and hope to see for myself one day – a national staple.
You probably already know how to cook chicken cutlets? I didn’t, and the Canal House recipe didn’t go into much detail, so I texted Matthew, who knows how to cook almost everything. The recipe below is quick and loose, a combination of Matthew’s instructions, some online recipe-reading, and Canal House’s smothered pea idea, banged out on my electric stove on a warm June night as an early dinner for two. (If you’re looking to do traditional katsu, which calls for pounding the meat to an even thinness and frying with greater exactness, Kenji Lopez-Alt has an excellent method.)
I recommend serving cutlets and peas with corn on the cob, cooked quickly in a skillet of simmering, well-salted water. In my experience, almost-five-year-olds are great at buttering corn on the cob. They can also participate in the chicken-dredging process, provided that your almost-five-year-old is a good hand-washer (and/or you are an exacting hand-washing supervisor). Almost-five-year-olds can also set the table. They may choose to do all of the above wearing only underwear and chipped nail polish. Upon taking a first bite, they may even exclaim, “I love this recipe!” Almost-five-year-olds are the greatest, except when they are not.
(A normal old recipe post! That was fun.)
- The aforementioned Matthew and I are teaching a two-day travel writing workshop at the Pantry on July 15th and 16th. Please join us. The description reads thus: The best travel writing brings you all of the discovery, disasters, and deliciousness of travel with none of the flight delays. But how do you write about a place without sounding like a Chamber of Commerce brochure? In this two-day workshop, bestselling authors Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton will show you how to find the story in a destination, zoom in on meaningful details, and understand right and wrong ways to put yourself into the story. To get you there, we’ll explore selections from writers like Fuchsia Dunlop, Ann Patchett, Rachel Khong, Bill Bryson, and more. Sign up via The Pantry.
- I’m reading Sherman Alexie’s new memoir, and it’s difficult and funny and immensely good. I loved his recent interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air.
- I wish Rookie had existed when I was a teenager. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from reading it now, and I’ve listened to every episode of the Rookie podcast. Tavi’s recent interview with writer and transgender activist Janet Mock was especially inspired. And don’t miss Roxane Gay on bodies, writing, and more.
Hi. We’re well, and I hope you are too.
Chicken Cutlets Smothered in Peas
Inspired by Canal House Cooking, Vol. 6: The Grocery Store
June didn’t like the scallion flavor in the peas, so next time, I’ll be leaving the scallions out. I like it either way.
Set out three shallow bowls. Put a large, heaping spoonful of flour in the first, the egg in the second, and a large, heaping spoonful of panko in the third. I didn’t measure the flour or panko, and I think you can safely eyeball it. Beat the egg well with a fork.
Season the cutlets with kosher salt.
Working with one cutlet at a time, dredge in flour with one hand, shaking off excess. Transfer to the egg dish, turning the cutlet with your other hand to coat both sides. Lift, allowing excess egg to drain off. Transfer to the panko bowl. With your first hand, scoop panko on top of the cutlet and gently press to adhere, taking care that the whole thing is coated. Transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with remaining cutlets. If this is done properly, your first hand should touch only dry ingredients, while your second hand should touch only wet, and ideally it’s not too messy. If it is, oh well.
Pour oil into a 10-inch skillet to a depth of ¼ to 1/3 inch. Place over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers and runs loosely around the pan when you tilt it (around 350°F), gently lower the cutlets into the pan, laying them down away from you to prevent splashes of hot fat. Don’t crowd the pan; cook in batches if necessary. Cook cutlets until the bottom side is set, and then flip and fry until the second side is set. Continue cooking, flipping occasionally for even browning, until the cutlets are golden brown – fried-chicken color – and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. I use a Thermapen to test for doneness, pulling cutlets from the pan around 155°F. They will rise to 165°F (the USDA safe temperature) as they rest. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the peas and scallions and a generous dash of salt, stir to coat, cover, and cook until tender. I didn’t time this. Maybe 10 minutes?
Serve everything hot, the buttery peas spooned over the cutlets.
Yield: 2 to 3 servings