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Emma Laperruque's Easy Chicken Schnitzel

Emma Laperruque's Chicken Schnitzel

Well, remember how I said that I was still trying to figure out my way back to the kitchen on August 23rd? It's November 8th and I'm just barely getting there! September and October were mostly about survival. We ate a lot of Abendbrot and fish sticks and pasta and salad. I avoided the kitchen as much as I could. Happily, though, I did have one very big cooking revelation, which was discovering this method for juicy chicken schnitzel, in which you marinate pounded chicken in a creamy bath of mustard and mayonnaise before breading and frying it. 

If you had told my eight-year-old self! My 18-year-old self! My 28-year-old self! That one day I would always have a jar of mayonnaise in my fridge! That I would fall in love with a recipe that uses nearly a cup of mayonnaise! I and my various selves would not have believed it, so great was my loathing for mayonnaise. And yet, here we are. If you are a mayo loather, I imagine you will scroll on by here, but the truth is that you can't actually taste the mayonnaise, it's really there to tenderize the meat and flavor it, along with the mustard, as well as allow you to skip a step in the breading process. The bulk of the marinade gets scraped off (as best you can) before doing the breading and frying.

So, yes, you make a marinade of mustard and mayo and plop the chicken in there to rest. The recipe says to do this up to a day beforehand, but I've never done it more than an hour before (and shh, sometimes even less than that, even though it says an hour is the minimum). Then you put a bunch of breadcrumbs in a shallow dish, clean off the chicken as best you can and dredge the chicken pieces in the breadcrumbs. I've used both regular fine breadcrumbs (that were gluten-free) and I've used panko and both work really well. So you use whatever you like.

Heat up some oil (well, more than "some" - which is really the key to a good schnitzel, not skimping on the oil) in a cast-iron skillet and you're good to go. Blissfully, pounded chicken schnitzel takes mere minutes to cook, which means that as long as you're willing to do that one marinade step in advance of dinner, dinner itself will take hardly any time at all to make.

The chicken comes out crunchy and moist and tender and delicious, and has entirely supplanted this as our weeknight chicken of choice. You probably don't need any help with sides, but it's lovely with a very simple, vinegary salad. It also makes good leftovers and is stellar in a sandwich. Hooray for kitchen revelations! 

Emma Laperruque's Easy Chicken Schnitzel
Adapted from Food52
Serves 4

3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for the breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cups peanut or vegetable oil, adjusted as needed for frying
4 chicken breasts
2 cups breadcrumbs (plain or panko)

1. Combine the mayonnaise, mustard and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Pound the chicken breasts to 1/4-inch thickness. Place the chicken in the marinade and coat all sides of the chicken in the marinate. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

2. When you’re ready to fry, add enough oil to a large cast-iron skillet to reach about 1/2-inch in depth. Set over medium-high heat.

3. Place the breadcrumbs on a plate and season with salt. Remove each chicken piece from the marinade and wipe off any excess. (Emma's note: No need to be obsessive but it should look mostly mayo-free, otherwise it won’t crisp properly.) Dredge each chicken piece in the breadcrumbs, pressing firmly to completely coat.

4. When the oil is hot, drop a crumb in the oil - it should immediately sizzle. Fry the chicken in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook each piece for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until deeply browned. Transfer the pieces to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken, then serve immediately.