Tiptoe......................peeking through the gate

Everyday Company Chicken


     Have you ever wondered why chicken is sometimes tough and stringy...and sometimes tender and moist? I'm not sure I have all the answers, but, after almost 40 years of cooking, I do have a few pointers to pass on.

     First, always start with fresh, not frozen and thawed, chicken breast. Next, the biggest secret to moist, tender chicken lies in the use of a weapon: the meat pounder or tenderizer. This hammer-like device looks lethal, and it should be to your chicken breast. The pounder will take the stringy, fibrous texture out of the poultry and leave it smooth and moist.

     To pound, slice a half breast horizontally into two or three pieces,  then pound away at each cutlet on a cutting board with the spike-like side of the meat pounder until the cutlet has spread and is flattened to about 1/3" thick. Then flip it over and pound lightly on the other side. When you are finished pounding, heat 3 T olive oil in a large frying pan (cast iron or high-quality non-stick pans work well) on medium heat.

     Place two shallow bowls or pie plates near your stove. In one, lightly beat two eggs. Shake plain or seasoned bread crumbs (1 cup to start) into the other. Now dip one cutlet in the egg, covering both sides, and then in the crumbs. Place in the hot oil and saute until lightly browned on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Add more oil as needed to keep from sticking and flip the cutlets over. Saute again for about 3-4 minutes. Cut into a cutlet to make sure it is done. The juices should be clear and the chicken should not be pink. Serve immediately as is, or turn your Everyday Chicken into Company Chicken by adding the following sauce.

Company Chicken

     Pound and saute two whole chicken breasts (about 2 pounds) in the manner described above. You should end up with about 12 cutlets. Place them in a glass rectangular pan 9 x 13, overlapping to make them fit, and cover with the following cheese sauce. (With one other exception, this is the only time I use American cheese. But it works perfectly in this recipe.)

     On the stovetop, or in the microwave, heat one 12-ounce can of evaporated milk to just below boiling. Add 3/4 pound (12 ounces) shredded or cubed good-quality American cheese (such as Land O' Lakes). Whisk until the cheese has melted into the milk, but do not boil. Add two small cans of sliced mushrooms, including the liquid (or 12 ouces of sliced fresh mushrooms, if you prefer). Whisk until incorporated. Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and just beginning to brown.

     Serve the chicken with brown rice, spooning the sauce over both rice and chicken. Add a steamed green vegetable on the side. Delicious!

     --Makes 6 generous, or 8 medium, servings.

Note: This recipe was given to me 35 years ago by a woman who lived in the apartment across the hall from Ross and me our first year of marriage. After she served it to us for dinner, I asked for the recipe. She jotted down the ingredients but said there was no name, since she had invented it. I have no idea where she is now, but I think of her often when I prepare her creamy/tangy cheese sauce.