lemon-parmesan chicken

This parmesan-lemon crusted chicken is one of my favorite meals. A simple lemon vinaigrette, salad greens, and some chicken: dinner is served. It is very easy to make, but can be time consuming. 

Last night, Rich and I went out to a Japanese restaurant in Buckhead called Umi. It's a swanky spot, with low lights, great drinks, and incredible food. We each had miso soup, we split an avocado salad with wasabi vinaigrette, and we tried a few different pieces of sushi. The unagi- barbequed fresh eel- is my all-time favorite piece of sushi, and that was the first entree that came out. Suffice it to say I was enraptured by the flavor and tenderness of the eel. I think it was the best preparation I have ever had. The sushi rolls came out next, and we managed to finish both rolls off in about 30 seconds flat. I'm still riding my sushi high and I was laughing as we ate our dinner because all I could think was, "I'm so excited to come back and eat here again". 

One of the reasons I love Japanese food so much is because no matter what I do, I can't make it taste the same at home. I don't have access to the same ingredients, I don't have the technique, and I don't have the inclination to learn. I appreciate having the mystery available to me every time I want it- and now I know where we will be heading next time the craving hits. If you're looking for a good Japanese spot in Atlanta, look no further than Umi because it is spectacular (I would recommend getting a reservation though). 

But, of course, there are other things I crave all the time- and this lemon chicken is one of them. My mom originally got the recipe from Ina Garten's cookbook, but it's been through many iterations over the years. When I was in Idaho, it was one of the first things my sister Jessica asked me to make.

The chicken is pan fried with a crust of panko bread crumbs and parmesan, then served over greens with a really simple lemon dressing and move shaved parm on top. It takes some effort- I won't lie to you- but I promise, this is an incredible meal that you and your family will love. Plus, it's a solid enough dinner that you don't really need to serve anything else, except maybe another vegetable on the side.

Ready? Here's how it's done:

First, make your vinaigrette. It's equal parts lemon juice and olive oil, with some salt and pepper. When you're ready to serve, give it a good shake-shake-shake, but for now just set it aside.

Now, you want to pound your chicken out into thin pieces. I like to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts and slice them myself instead of buying cutlets, because that way they are sliced on the bias and I can make them the size I want.

To cut up your chicken, trim each breast of any excess fat, then slice into 1" thick pieces against the grain of the meat.

To pound the meat thin, place the pieces cut-side up and cover with plastic wrap.

Using a kitchen mallet (or some other heavy flat thing) take out your aggression on those unsuspecting pieces of chicken. You want them to be uniformly thin. The plastic wrap keeps your mallet clean, and also keeps little aerosol raw chicken bits from floating around all over the kitchen.

I go through all the chicken and pile it up onto a plate, then cover it with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge while I make the dredges.

Combine the panko, shredded parm, dried basil and oregano on one plate. I like to use plates that are pretty wide with a brim, to keep all the goodness where I want it.

Whisk together the eggs and water on another plate.

Finally, make your seasoned flour. Whisk the flour and the rest of the spices together on another plate.

Once the flour and seasonings are well combined, heat up 2 T of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Pull out the chicken and start working one piece at a time- first in the flour, then the egg, then the bread crumb mix. It's important to get each piece well coated in each mixture, or you will have uneven breading, and shake of any excess flour or egg.

Since the breadcrumbs are pretty big, you will need to give each piece a good pat to make sure they are well coated. I always use three forks- one for each step- to prevent things from getting gunky, and to isolate the raw chicken. Once you've placed the chicken in the pan, use a clean fork or set of tongs and be careful not to switch them. 

Once your oil is shimmering and you have your first piece of chicken ready, slide it into the pan. You should hear a little bit of a sizzle, but not much. Resist the urge to turn up the heat above medium low, because the breading will brown before the chicken is cooked. 

You'll be able to see the chicken cooking and usually I flip each piece around the two-minute mark. The goal is for each piece to be beautifully golden brown.

Cook another two minutes or so on the other side- or until nice and golden brown. Cook all the chicken, adding oil as you need, and placing the cooked chicken on a plat, covering the cooked pieces with aluminum foil to keep them warm as you go.

Once all the chicken is cooked, plate your dinner. Put a good two handfuls of greens on each dinner plate, then top with a few pieces of shaved parmesan. Drizzle a bit of dressing over each plate. Top with about three-four pieces of chicken per plate, then add more shaved parm and another good drizzle of dressing. 

Serve with extra dressing and shaved parmesan on the side. Marvel at the simple goodness.

Here's the recipe! You can easily increase the recipe by budgeting another chicken breast for each additional person- you may need to supplement your dredge as well.