Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crunchy Chicken in Green Sauce

I know that we have done dozens of variations of breaded chicken breasts.  And yet we keep finding (or inventing) and cooking more variations.  I guess when you find something that you like, you can't help but do it over and over again.  My favorite thing about all of the variations is how easily you can vary the flavors and breading so that all of the variations are completely different from each other.  For instance, we have done variations on Japanese Cornflake Chicken Katsu with Tonkatsu Dipping Sauce, a few Southern-inspired variations including our Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce, and Spicy "Fried" Chicken Cutlets with Honey-Tabasco Sauce inspired by a dish at WD-50.  Not all of our variations have been blog-worthy, but that's ok.  I have to admit that as far as breading choices go, I think that the panko, cornmeal, and cornflakes are all equal in my mind.  As far as cooking methods go, I think that it tends to work better to bake the chicken on a cooling rack like I did with my chicken katsu and the "fried" chicken.  The chicken cooks more evenly, the breading stays on without slipping off when you try to clip the chicken and cook the other side. and I think the breading gets crispier.  With all of that said, if you cook the chicken carefully on the stove-top you can achieve similar results.  So when this recipe said to cook it on the stove-top I figured why not?

I really liked this sauce.  I thought that it had great flavor and it had never occurred to me in the past to make a sauce out of chicken stock and salsa.  It was a great idea and a very easy way to add lots of flavor very easily and very quickly.  As for the chicken, I thought that the brief soak in the spiced buttermilk kept the chicken moist and gave it more flavor.  Actually, the buttermilk worked surprisingly well without any egg to help the breadcrumbs adhere.  The only problem with this dish is that by cooking it in the pan, and then removing it to a plate while you cook the sauce in the same pan, the breading loses some of its crispness.  Perhaps if we had mixed panko with the cornmeal it would have worked a little better, but I think that the next time we cook this dish, we will bake the chicken in the oven and cook the sauce on the stove-top to avoid that problem.

Recipe after the jump!

Crunchy Chicken in Green Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit
November 2002

1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp ancho chili powder, separated
2 tsp chipotle chili powder, separated
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 lb. thin cut chicken breast cutlets (about 1/2- to 1/3-inch thickness)
2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup bottled green salsa
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, sliced

Pour buttermilk into shallow dish.  Season with 1 tsp each of ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder and kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp cayenne.  Stir to mix marinade.  Add chicken cutlets.  Allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, flipping chicken over halfway through.  Combine cornmeal, remaining chili powder, and salt in shallow dish.  Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture, allowing excess marinade to drip off.  Place chicken in cornmeal mixture and turn to coat.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add chicken breasts to the pan, don't overcrowd the pan - you might have to cook the chicken in batches.  Cook until cooked through, flipping carefully with tongs halfway through, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer chicken to plate and tent with foil.  Repeat with remaining chicken, adding remaining oil as necessary.

Add add stock to skillet.  Bring to simmer over medium heat.  Stir in salsa and simmer until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.  Mix in cilantro.  Divide chicken among 2 plates.  Spoon sauce over chicken. Top with avocado slices and serve.

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