Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Change is affirming

I have a confession to make. I drive a good many of my friends straight up the wall because I don't dig Italian restaurants, per se. Before you suffocate me in a red, green, and white tablecloth, hold on. Geez. Let me explain.

There are a few really authentic Italian places around lately in which I turn up. Also, there are and have been a few swank joints I can stomach, no issue: Campanga, Da Silvano, and Babbo to name a few. Generally, they are run by people from, or trained in, places like Campanga, Florence, whathaveyou, and run by people with names steeped in the more authentic American-Italian food experience like Bastianch and Batali.

That said, if you mean to slap a mealy piece of parm on my plate and with a new Chianti and call that my dinner, you will find my chair vacant and the drapes at the back of the dining room dancing in the breeze next to an open window. Call me at Fiamma, I was probably hungry, but not hungry enough to eat cardboard and sand.

This became the situation after I began traveling to Italy and discovered, to my initial confusion, the stuff they fed us at John's Best was not the Italian food of Italian people in Italy. It was better, fresher, and far more varied in style and influence than repetitive Little Italy menus ever revealed. I never looked back.

It was then that I gave up chicken parm (not a deep struggle). I also axed several similar preparations known to be French (Paillard) and German (Schnitzel). Now you know it was not limited to Italian restaurants. They were fried, sickeningly thick, and bland. Enough was enough.

However, Robin Miller caused me to rethink my parm position when she wrote this recipe. I can't get behind her on coating anything in oats not for love or good health. But let's face it: When she replaced the flour and egg dips with a brush of fruit preserves as a stick surface, the woman became a genius. Lighter, freshly flavored, but still crunchy, my, that was nifty. But, a little on the pedestrian side for this household, I'm afraid. We need big punch in the flavor. Not even the corgi will eat something not properly seasoned.

I have undone and redone her here but I think the sauce gribeche-like accompaniment saves any remaining potential the cutlet could taste like cardboard. Look, I won't take chances with dinner: Slap it with a sauce finished with a tiny bit of fat and you've got the dinner equivalent of a bet on Secretariat.

Crunchy Orange Spiked Chicken with Orange Rice Wine Reduction
Adapted from this Robin Miller recipe
Serves 4

This dish went to the table this evening with couscous studded with toasted almonds and tiny pieces of dried apricot. Along side was a light salad of mache with the stand-by shallot Dijon vinaigrette (stay tuned).

You can place these cutlets on a cake cooling rack to bake them and they will be more crispy (a cooking method I prefer for anything crusted and baked). Though, they may arguably also be a tad drier.

For the cutlets:
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs, preferably fresh
4 large boneless chicken breast halves, (split if they are not already)
1/2 cup orange marmalade
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet with canola oil.
Place the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl and place them next to your poultry cutting board.

Trim away any remaining fat. Working with one cutlet at a time and using a spoon, coat each cutlet in marmalade thoroughly (if you have some thicknesses of jelly or rind, it is fine) and then coat thoroughly in bread crumbs, placing each completed cutlet on the oiled sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper on the upside.

Bake for 20 minutes. If you like them to be golden and crunchy, once they are cooked, place each side under the broiler until they are golden.

Orange Rice-Wine Reduction
1/2 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tbls. honey, more to taste
1/2 tsp. butter

Into a small heavy sauce pan over medium heat, place the orange juice and rice wine vinegar. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low and cook until the mixture is reduced by half, About eight minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the honey and stir quickly until the honey is dissolved. Taste. If you prefer the sauce sweeter, add more honey. Once you are satisfied with the flavor, add the butter and stir until melted and completely combined.

To serve:
Slice your chicken cutlets horizontally into bite-sized pieces and fan on your serving platter. Spoon a very light drizzle of the sauce over the center of each piece. Place remaining sauce in a vessel and serve with a sauce spoon along side the chicken.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad for the chicken help. Its boring and tasteless will give this a try. Michala, Minnesota