Tonight for dinner I practiced a bit of desperation cooking. It is the kind of cooking where you have to eat something, but you really don’t feel like doing anything creative, or interesting, or even that is actually cooking. Luckily I have a toddler that is in his “I can live on Air and Milk” phase. I tried to be nice to him today and got him one of his favorite foods – Chick-fil-A. Long story short … I ended up with a CFA sandwich that had approximately 2 gnat sized bites taken out of it in my ‘fridge.
So I asked myself “What would Sandra Lee do?” and then I started “cooking”. I fished around in the back of the freezer and came up with 6 cubes of frozen spaghetti sauce and tossed them into a saucepan with some olive oil and garlic. Then I arranged the piece of CFA on a cookie sheet flanked by it’s buns (I peeled off the pickles and ate them). Sprinkled some garlic powder on the buns and some shredded mozzarella on the chicken and then slapped them all into a cold oven. Fired it up to 350 and put some water on to boil for spaghetti.
Yadda, Yadda, Yadda … Faux Chicken Parmesan.
I am ashamed.
But, it makes me feel much better about posting this meal, which I previously thought might be too boring/pedestrian to blog about. Obviously standards are not something that I am really strict about around here.
Pork Cutlet Parmesan
So lets talk about the Tyranny of Chicken. Perhaps it is the fact that Veal is both expensive and gauche that has led to the rise of Chicken Parmesan – but somehow the poultry lobby has managed to make any other version of a “Parmesan” dish nigh on unthinkable.
That is not to say that I bust out the boxed baby cow for a home meal – moral beliefs aside, I am too much of a cheapskate. But I do believe if I can pound it flat, bread it, pan fry it, and put some cheese on it then it is a viable candidate for inclusion in a “Parmesan” dish.
When my spelunking adventure into the freezer unearthed pork cutlets – the game was on!
Take chubby pieces of meat that are roughly the size of your closed hand (like you are going to give someone a high 5, not Jazz hands) and place them on a piece of plastic wrap. Place another piece of plastic wrap on top of them and whack the bejeebus out of them with something heavy and flat.
Not literally, you actually have to be kinda careful about not tearing the meat – but it isn’t hard. Just thwack it with something and get it flatter – now we are looking for Jazz Hands size. Do the breading thing to your pieces of flattened flesh.
Skillet with oven-safe handle containing a kinda thin layer of vegetable oil and an oven preheated to 350ish.
The Breading Thing
Set up three containers with the following mixtures:
1: A beaten Egg
2: A mixture of Bread Crumbs (I am all snooty and like Panko, because nothing says Italian Breaded Meat like Japanese bread crumbs) and Parmesan cheese.
3: A mixture of plain ole flour, salt and pepper, (if you likea the espicy you can adda some red peppah).
I like having 1 & 2 in Tupperware type containers – boxes, you know something with high sides to contain the mess. 3 can just be on a plate – it isn’t crucial. When breading you need to remember that wet stuff sticks to dry stuff. So to start with your meat is wet so you want to dip it into the flour first – not to heavy, just a dusting. Then you dip it into the beaten egg to get it wet so that the dry crumbs will stick to your cutlet. From the egg mixture you move to the breadcrumb mixture – I tend to pat it to get things good and stuck to each other. I also just like fiddling with things.
If you are doing a small number (I tend to be doing 2) place them directly into your oven-safe skillet with a goodly layer of hot vegetable oil shimmering away. (Do we need to talk about melty handles again?) Let the first side get good and brown and crispy then flip them over. Chuck the whole skillet into the oven and it will brown on the other side. When it is close to being done open the oven and sprinkle whatever kind of cheese on top that tickles your fancy – I tend to always have mozzarella around the house, but I wouldn’t kick provolone out of bed.
I really cannot tell you how long to cook the things because I don’t know how efficient your pounding is. It won’t take to terribly long. Make sure you have your pasta on the boil and about ready to go and that your sauce is pretty much done and just bubbling happily on a back burner. The cutlets can sit for a bit while the pasta is finishing – but you don’t want to lose the crispy. I mean, isn’t that what it is all about? Plate your pasta, sauce to liking and top with crispy meat cutlet.
Voila! Fancy pants dinner; if Fancy Pants to you is Olive Garden, and considering the frequency of my dining out Olive Garden might as well be Sotto Sotto.