Ok, I have just about had it with the stupid super lean chicken breasts in the store. Do yours squeak when cooked? Mine did. When they "look" done, they are over done. When they ARE done, they look unattractively underdone. I've tried braising, pan sauteing, oven baking, roasting, etc. But when I cook a boneless skinless chicken breast, I keep hearing that obnoxious squeak when I cut it that means it's over cooked and dried out. Bleh.
It's easy to cook up a moist and lovely chicken thigh or a whole bird...or even a bone in skin on chicken breast. But the weekday speedy boneless skinless breast was really beginning to annoy me.
So, I tried a bunch of stuff. Really I did. I ruined many a batch o' chicken breasts. Then one day, I tried again. The first thing my son said after sampling this experiment was "Wow. I can even cut this with a fork." Then he said "This is awesome, I'd pay $30 for that in a restaurant." 22 year old men are odd things.
I guess I finally figured it out. Here's what I did. Now remember, my non chicken ingredients are at this point rather estimated because I only made it once and am not much of a measurer anyway. The recipe was repeated with success by a friend though so I think it's pretty dratted close. I'll edit it later if I find that I am off in an important area.
The main ingredients with notes as to flexibility and variations on a chicken breast theme:
3 large organical chicken breasts of the uneven size and proportion (don't worry, we'll fix that)
Enough Buttermilk to cover the chicken breasts (I did not measure and really, most of it will be poured down the drain later so don't worry about the calories, ok?)
Several shakes of Tabasco sauce (optional, but I thought it made a wonderful flavor enhancement and besides I love my food spicy, although this did not make the chicken spicy, there was just a hint of something extra). My friend Gabi, the BrokeAss Gourmet likes to use a couple tablespoons of Sriracha Sauce instead of Tabasco. Give it a try, it's tasty.
1 1/2 cups Panko Japanese Style Bread Crumbs (I used the Italian seasoned ones this time, but it's not important cuz you add whatever seasonings you want and I meant to grab the plain when I was at the store and I just didn't. So this is what I had to work with)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigianno Reggiano (or your favorite hard Italian cheese all grated up. Do make sure it's fresh grated. Never buy grated cheese in a bag or plastic container unless you don't like the people coming over for dinner.
More Seasonings I used probably 3 t or even more of garlic, oh say 2 t dried parsley, about a 1 of oregano, and a number of turns of the black pepper mill. You use the seasonings that you like. You might not be a major garlicaholic like me so you would NEVER additional garlic if you got the Italian seasoned Panko. BTW, you don't have to make this Italian. Use whatever your favorite herbs and seasonings are. You may love white pepper tarragon chicken or you may be a big Herbs de Provencal person. If so, then make it so.
How the thing is put together and baked to glorious tenderness and juiciness:
Get out one of those big zip lock bags and your meat mallet. Put one chicken breast inside the ziplock bag. Do not seal it, but lightly flatten the open end with one hand because you are about to whack the whathaveyou out of your chicken with the flat side of the mallet and you don't want the chicken squirting out. Don't use the bumpy side of the mallet, ok? Whack away. Whack until the breast is about even thickness throughout. You'll probably find it between 1/2 an inch to 3/4 of an inch thick depending on how big the breasts were in the first place. Repeat with the other two breasts.
One thing you will notice is that your three breasts are now incredibly huge. Didn't look like so much meat before. Now you know that only 1/2 of one is going to be just fine for dinner. Put the flattened breasts in a bowl or other container with a lid. Cover with buttermilk. Lift each breast to make sure the buttermilk gets all around them. Stir in some Tabasco while you are doing the lifting part. Cover and return to the fridge for about 1/2 an hour to an hour or whatever amount of time you find you have. Bring out of the fridge and sit for 1/2 an hour to bring to room temperature before cookery.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Yes. 500, not 350, not 375, not 425. 500 degrees in Fahrenheit.
While the oven is heating up, mix up all the other non-chicken ingredients in a wide bowl. Inhale the aroma and adjust the seasonings until the dry mix smells awesome. This is my most favorite of mindfulness cookery techniques. Use your nose, eyes, and memory in addition to a recipe.
Line a large baking pan with foil and give it a spritz of non stick spray.
Pull out one of the chicken breasts and coat well with the Panko mix on both sides. Place in the pan. Repeat. Repeat.
Now, the best thing is if your chicken breasts do not touch so use a large enough pan. If they have to touch you may need to add five minutes to the cookery time.
When the oven preheating dinger goes off and you know your oven is really hot, put the pan in and let it bake for about 20 minutes. Yes. 20 minutes. If you think your chickens were more on the 3/4 inch size you may need five more minutes. I will let you cut one or use your meat thermometer to make sure. Then remove from the oven and let them sit in the pan for five minutes to seal in the juiciness and flavors.
As you can see, the chicken was not only perfectly cooked but the Panko gave it a nice brownness - which helped me mentally because a non-browned chicken shrieks underdone to me and I am immediately prejudiced against it. Give it a try. If you use different seasonings, let me know what you did and how it turned out.
Don't forget to enjoy your chicken mindfully. :D