Saturday, January 30, 2016

Crisp Chicken Schnitzel With Lemony Herb Salad

When I think Schnitzel, I think Wiener Schnitzel which is German for "Viennese schnitzel.”  We all know that dish, a very thin veal cutlet, breaded and fried, drizzled with a sweetened vinaigrette and served with potato salad or parsley potatoes.  

We don’t normally associate Schnitzel with chicken. That is until NYTimes Cooking contributor Melissa Clark offered a recipe for the same and the recipe, thankfully, appeared in A.’s “What to Make for Dinner” newsfeed.

She made it for us on Wednesday night.  

We were so grateful. 

It was absolutely delicious.

Schnitzel, without the Weiner, is simply any meat, pounded thin, coated and fried.  In France, it’s escalope, in Latin America, milanesa, in Italy, parmigiana.  So, you see, the concept is consistent but it’s the sauce that makes the dish distinctive by country.  So, to make Chicken Schnitzel, just dress it with a sauce typically reserved for Weiner Schnitzel!

The trick to making an airy schnitzel is not to let the breadcrumbs stick to the meat but, rather, float on top of the meat.  This is achieved by dipping the cold cutlets in flour (the flour acts like a protective shield!), then eggs, THEN bread crumbs in preparation for frying.  And, when frying, move and shake the pan to encourage lots of air circulation.  Also, don’t overcrowd the meat because overcrowding lowers the oil temperature and that affects the crispiness.  Rule of thumb…fry only a few cutlets at a time.

Crisp Chicken Schnitzel With Lemony Herb Salad
By:  NYTimes Cooking

6 anchovy fillets
1 small garlic clove
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
7 to 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
½ cup flour
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 ¼ pounds chicken breast or thigh cutlets, pounded to 1/8-inch thick
Safflower, peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
2 quarts mixed baby greens (A. substituted with shredded Brussels sprouts)
2 cups soft herb leaves, like a combination of mint, tarragon, basil, parsley, cilantro, chervil, chives (try to use at least 3 kinds)
1 scallion, thinly sliced, including greens
Mince anchovies and garlic and mix with a large pinch of salt until you get a rough paste. Put it in bowl and whisk in the lemon zest, juice and another pinch of salt and some pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

Place eggs in one shallow dish, bread crumbs in another, and flour mixed with cayenne and nutmeg in a third. Season chicken cutlets generously with salt and pepper.

Heat 1/8 inch oil in a large skillet. While oil heats, dip cutlets one by one into flour (shake off any excess), then into eggs (ditto) and finally into the bread crumbs, taking care not to handle chicken more than necessary (hold meat by ends).

When oil sizzles when a pinch of bread crumbs is thrown in, add a chicken cutlet (or two if your skillet is large, leave plenty of room around them). Swirl pan so oil cascades over top of cutlet in waves. When bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes, flip and brown the other side, swirling pan (swirling helps create air pockets, giving you lighter schnitzel). Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking platter or baking tray and sprinkle with more salt. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Toss salad greens and herbs with just enough anchovy-lemon dressing to lightly coat them. Divide salad on serving plates and top with schnitzel. Drizzle with more dressing and garnish with scallions.

A. served with risotto.  We had a wonderful salad and homemade peanut butter cookies for dessert.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Crab Cakes

We experienced blizzard conditions in southeast Pennsylvania this weekend…beautiful, but quite inconvenient!

But, when we walked into M.’s house for dinner the other night and were immediately greeted by the crackle of a wonderful fire to warm our chilly bones and the smell of Old Bay, we knew it was going to be a good night.

Old Bay normally sounds the alarm for crab cakes and we were right!  Crab cakes are made with, of course, crab meat and the other usual suspects of bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs and, in particular Old Bay Seasoning.  The Blue Crab is native to the Chesapeake Bay and its succulent meat is the ultimate choice in most Baltimore restaurants, where the cakes are served both broiled and fried.  I lived in Baltimore for three years and I learned to really appreciate these little beauties. Although Maryland is renowned for Crab Cakes, the patties are popular in any coastal area where crabbing thrives.  

Crabs are caught in crab traps the crustaceans enter to eat the bait but from which the poor dears can’t escape.  Some are wooden, some are made of wire.  Plain-old nets are also used.  Once the traps or nets are full, the fisher retrieves the cages and escorts the jewels to their final destination.  We are grateful that nature provides such tasty morsels. 

Did you know that the scientific name for the Blue Crab is Callinectes, Greek for Beautiful Swimmer.  And, btw, crabs can only do the's very funny to watch them walk!

Crab Cakes
Cooks Illustrated

1 pound lump crabmeat (preferably jumbo lump), picked over to remove cartilage and shell fragments
4 medium scallions , green part only, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves or cilantro, dill, or basil, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs, or up to 1/4 cup (see note)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 large egg
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cups vegetable oil

The amount of bread crumbs you add will depend on the crabmeat’s juiciness. Start with the smallest amount, adjust the seasonings, then add the egg. If the cakes won’t bind at this point, then add more bread crumbs, one tablespoon at a time.

Gently mix crabmeat, scallions, herb, Old Bay, bread crumbs, and mayonnaise in medium bowl, being careful not to break up crab lumps. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Carefully fold in egg with rubber spatula until mixture just clings together.

Divide crab mixture into four portions and shape each into a fat, round cake, about 3 inches across and 1 1/2-inches high. Arrange on baking sheet lined with waxed paper; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. (Can refrigerate up to 24 hours.)

Put flour on a plate and lightly dredge crab cakes. Heat oil in large, preferably a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Gently lay chilled crab cakes in skillet and pan-fry until outsides are crisp and browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve hot, with sauces!

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce (minced)
1 small clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon lime juice from 1 lime
Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes. (The sauce can be refrigerated for several days.)

It was an eventful evening.  Ella, the Labrador, stole the remnants of the cheese tray and a husband unexpectedly joined us for dinner… we each happily offered a quarter-section of our crab cake.  We listened to selections from Hamiltion, a play about the life of Alexander Hamilton…it amazes me how brilliant composers are.  And, we had homemade rice pudding for dessert.

Blue crab photo and crab facts from

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bacon-Corn Chowder with Shrimp

When I think chowder, I think of clam chowder or maybe potato chowder.  Both are incredibly satisfying and perfect to warm our innards on a chilly winter day.  Chowder is typically made with seafood or vegetables and has a smooth and velvety consistency, compliments of cream or milk typically added.  It's not a dish usually associated with light fare, so when I saw this Cooking Light version in my Facebook feed, I vowed to make it.  

Maybe I didn’t vow, but I’m always looking for Dinner Night suggestions and this recipe did not disappoint. And soup was just what the doctor ordered (literally) following two weeks of sinus-infection fun, but enough about that.

First of all, bacon makes everything better and sautéing the celery, onion and garlic right in the bacon fat is a genius maneuver.  And true to any chowder, half & half adds creaminess but more wonderful creaminess comes from removing two cups of the soup, blending it until smooth, and returning the blended potage to the pot. This technique is new to me (maybe I’ve been under a rock!) and all the cream in the world could not replicate the effectiveness of this step.  Cooks Illustrated also uses this method in its Red Lentil Soup recipe, which is also absolutely delicious.

The whole kernels of corn provide a pleasant and crispy pop and the shrimp adds a bit of fancy-pants as well as chewiness.  I used frozen shrimp, already deveined and peeled….what could be easier!  

This recipe is surprisingly simple to make, especially considering the flavor punch it packs.  I would do a few things differently the next time, like adding more broth and spicing it up with some red pepper flakes.  I garnished with chopped bacon and cilantro and a thinly-sliced baguette, toasted and slathered with olive oil.  I served crispy bread on the side.  

There wasn’t a drop or kernel left in the pot!  Thank goodness we had a delicious salad of greens and grapefruit sections to devour.

The recipe gurus at Cooking Light routinely take calorie and fat laden recipes and lighten them up….I think they did a great job with this one, as demonstrated by the nutritional statistics!

Bacon-Corn Chowder with Shrimp
Cooking Light
4 servings (serving size: about 1 2/3 cups)

6 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (that I forgot at the store but my garden is still producing!)
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
3/4 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1/3 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bacon to pan; saute 4 minutes or until the bacon begins to brown. Remove 2 slices bacon. Drain on paper towels. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through minced garlic) to pan, and saute for 2 minutes. Add corn, and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth; bring to a boil, and cook for 4 minutes.

2. Place 2 cups of corn mixture in a blender. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape), and secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in the blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Return pureed corn mixture to pan. Stir in shrimp; cook 2 minutes or until shrimp are done. Stir in half-and-half, pepper, and salt. Crumble reserved bacon, cilantro over soup.  Add a toasted baguette slice and serve!