My Mam once told me that she and I are very similar in many ways, but none more so than our inability to understand why people just don’t think like we do.
I don’t understand why somebody would scream that they hate liver but claim to love pate. I don’t understand why people wouldn’t dream of a pineapple ring and gammon together but would casually order a Hawaiian pizza. I don’t understand why someone would claim to hate cumin but eat chipotle wings with a smile on their face.
But yet, I wax lyrical about how I ‘neeever’ buy chicken breast because it’s dry and the dark meat is where the real tender texture and all the flavour is, then also find myself bashing a chicken breast to a thin escalope to coat in bread crumbs and fry, as if I hadn’t just scorned everybody else for their culinary behaviours.
So maybe my biggest problem isn’t that I don’t understand why people don’t think like me – maybe my biggest problem is that I’m a hypocrite. Maybe we, myself included, should just let people do what they want and be grateful we don’t all think alike. The world could be a much better place for it.
An escalope is my favourite – and only – way eat a chicken breast.
Flattened, smothered, coated then fried, the escalope manages to hold its integrity of still tasting like chicken but bringing with it a whole wall of flavours and textures that a chicken breast in its natural state just cannot provide me with.
This recipe makes use of harissa paste, which you can find very easily in supermarkets these days, mainly for its flavour layering but mostly because it assists the egg with foiling the chicken for the crumb coating to stick to. But if you wanted to skip the harissa, you could do so by replacing with some tomato paste, some dried chilli powder, some cinnamon, some paprika, and some cumin.
No quantities needed, just add as much as you fancy.
1 chicken breast
1 tablespoon harissa paste
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Take your chicken breast and carefully slice it sideways through the middle, cutting through about 80% of the meat. You want a little bit still connected so that you can open the chicken breast up like a book.
- Put the chicken breast on a chopping board, place a sheet of cling film on top and with a blunt instrument (a rolling pin will do) bash it until it’s about 1 – 2 cm thick. Let the cut rest for a moment.
- While it rests under the cling film, in a dish big enough to lie the breast in flat (or if you don’t have a big enough dish, a roasting tray will do), spoon in the harissa paste and cinnamon, grate in the garlic and the zest of the lemon. Add the egg and using a fork, combine everything together to create a wet paste.
- Place both flattened out chicken into the mix and shmoosh it about so that it’s covered in the paste. Turn it over, massaging the paste into the top of the breasts, cover and leave to marinate. Half an hour will be fine.
- Meanwhile in a bowl, scatter in your crackers and using a spoon – or your hands, as I do – crush the crackers up into a coarse mix. I like a nice combination of cracker dust as well as small thumb tack sized shards.
- Throw in some salt, pepper, the flour, the cumin and mix with a fork to combine.
- Take the paste covered chicken cuts and place them in the cracker mix one by one. Use your hands to make sure they are evenly covered. Once covered, move them back over to the chopping board. I use this time to take some of the cracker mix in my hand and cover up any bare patches I may have missed on the chicken cut
- In a large frying pan with high sides that will fit the chicken cut, pour in enough oil so that it comes just under a cm or so in the frying pan. It may look like a lot of oil, but don’t worry, the oil coming up the side of the chicken will ensure that the coating crisps up.
- When the oil is hot, carefully add the chicken cut to it and fry for 4 minutes, turning over, and frying for another 4. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove to a chopping board.
- Try and wait for 5 minutes or so for the chicken to rest a little, before slicing them into strips and serving.