I have written several crappy drafts of this post for Panko-Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Dijon Mustard, only to roll my eyes in exasperation and vow to write something better before I publish this recipe here. But the more I let my perfectionism get in the way, the longer I am depriving you of this dish. And I can’t do that to you anymore.
I will get straight to the point: This chicken totally rocks. And you really need to make this for yourself as soon as possible.
It’s quite simple. Start by pounding chicken breasts till very thin, or save yourself a step by buying thin-sliced chicken to begin with. Spread the cutlets with Dijon mustard and coat them in seasoned panko crumbs, those airy Japanese bread flakes that are so much lighter than regular breadcrumbs. Cook the cutlets quickly in shimmering olive oil till they turn golden brown, and serve them immediately.
The chicken comes out incredibly tender and juicy within its mustardy-crumb crust. In a word, it’s AWESOME.
Now that wasn’t so hard to write, Louise—was it?
I have struggled with perfectionism my whole life. I think it’s built-in to my nature, being the overachieving first-born child that I am. As a violinist who has spent countless hours of her life in the practice room, certain standards of perfectionism are required in order to improve and achieve a high level of performance. It’s completely normal for me to repeat a single musical phrase over and over while I’m practicing, tweaking and refining the passage until I can play it with great technical ease and beauty of sound.
I am frequently paralyzed by my perfectionism while writing here on Kitchen Fiddler. I desperately want to create inspiring recipes and take enticing photos to share with you, but my words often fall flat instead of leaping off the page. I struggle with the limitations of my camera and my photography skills, and my cramped kitchen also poses additional challenges to capturing a beautiful clean shot. But I’m better at being gentle with myself now, giving myself permission to write crappy first drafts and take lots of photos so that I eventually figure out what works.
Maybe I felt a little shy about posting this particular recipe, not quite sure how to photograph it well or tell a good story about it. But perhaps it’s enough to say that I received rave reviews each time prepared these panko-crusted chicken cutlets for several friends over the past month. Jorge was thrilled that I cooked this for us instead of our going out for a Friday lunch, and several days later Julie insisted this be the next post on Kitchen Fiddler so she could make the recipe herself.
The ultimate compliment came a few days ago from Cenovia, who makes the best fried chicken I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. I was definitely shy about making any variation on pan-fried chicken for her, considering how masterfully she does that herself. (Stupid perfectionism creeping in again!) But she took one bite of these panko-crusted beauties and said, “I don’t think I’ll ever need to make you fried chicken again! Will you make this for me again as soon as possible?!”
And with all that high praise bolstering me, I am finally ready to share this recipe with all of you.
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PANKO-CRUSTED CHICKEN CUTLETS
I wanted to get a good crust on the chicken while still making sure the meat was moist and juicy inside. Spreading the cutlets with Dijon mustard seals in the moisture as well as giving the panko crumbs a way to adhere to the chicken. Use a fork to turn the chicken in the pan so that you don’t dislodge the beautiful crust.
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, separated into 4 halves (or use thin-sliced chicken cutlets)
½ cup Dijon mustard, or more as needed
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon sea salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
Olive oil, for cooking
Thinly sliced scallions or chives, for garnish (optional)
Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Pound each breast between two pieces of wax paper with a mallet until it is an even ¼-inch thickness.
Mix the panko crumbs, thyme, salt and pepper together on a large shallow plate.
For each chicken cutlet, spread one side generously with mustard and place the cutlet mustard-side down in the breadcrumbs. Spread the topside with more mustard, flipping it over to coat the other side with the panko crumbs. Place on a wax paper-lined baking tray or large plate and repeat with the rest of the chicken. Chill the panko-crusted chicken in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Coat a large skillet with a thin coating of olive oil and heat over medium-heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, carefully add half the chicken cutlets. (You don’t want to overcrowd the skillet, so unless you have a monstrously large pan, you will probably need to cook this in two batches.) Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until the crust is a nice golden brown on both side and the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding a little more oil to the pan as needed.
Serve immediately, garnishing with snipped chives or thin slivers of scallions. Serves 4.