Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Crispy Chicken Cutlets with a Heap of Spring Salad

From Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen (Random House, New York, 2011. Copyright © 2011 by Sara Foster.( Buy this book!)

Serves 4 to 6

This dish contains all the flavor and crunch you expect from fried chicken, but with all the health benefits of using boneless, skinless chicken breast. Plus, you get bonus points for scattering the cutlets over a tender arugula salad bursting with fresh herbs and drizzled with tarragon-infused Buttermilk Green Goddess Dressing.

  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into 8 thin cutlets (see Note below)
  • 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs (see Note below)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Canola oil, for sautéing
  • 6 handfuls arugula (about 6 cups), washed and drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Buttermilk Green Goddess Dressing (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Chicken: Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Whisk the buttermilk and eggs along with a pinch of salt in a shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs and flour in two separate bowls or plastic bags, season each with salt and pepper to taste, and stir or shake to mix.
  2. Pour canola oil about 1/4-inch deep into a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet and place over medium-high heat until sizzling hot.
  3. While the oil is heating, dredge or shake the chicken in the flour mixture, adding one piece at a time, to evenly coat both sides, shaking off the excess, and then in the buttermilk mixture, allowing the excess to drip off. Finally, dredge in the bread crumbs to evenly coat both sides, patting to adhere.
  4. Working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the skillet, place the chicken in the hot oil and fry for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on a platter lined with a brown paper bag and season with additional salt and pepper. Repeat the process with the remaining cutlets, removing any brown bits with a slotted spoon and adding more oil if needed.
  5. Salad: Combine the arugula, parsley, and dill in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to mix.
  6. Assembly: Divide the salad mixture evenly between individual serving plates and place 1 or 2 pieces of warm chicken on top of each. Drizzle with the dressing, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, and serve warm.
Notes: Cutting Cutlets or Paillards: Place the boneless, skinless breast on a cutting board and secure it by placing your hand flat on top. Using a sharp knife, start at the thick end of the breast and slice in half horizontally (this is much easier than pounding the chicken thin). If the breast is thick enough, slice each half in half again horizontally to make cutlets about 1/4 inch thick.
Making Fresh Bread Crumbs: Fresh bread crumbs have endless uses. To make them, tear slightly stale bread into pieces. (Mostly any kind of bread will do, including white sandwich bread, French baguettes, rolls, and pita bread; the only ones I stay away from for this purpose are whole-grain or dark breads.) Place the bread pieces in the food processor or blender and pulse until you achieve the desired crumb. In the South, we also use crackers and cornbread interchangeably for fresh bread crumbs. They can be made in the same way, in a blender or food processor, but the cracker crumbs are better kept in the pantry. Always prepare more bread crumbs than you immediately need; stored in the freezer in a zip-top bag, they keep for up to 2 months.

Buttermilk Green Goddess Dressing

Makes about 1 cup

A classic of the West Coast, this dressing was created in the 1920s by San Francisco's Palace Hotel in honor of a play by the same name. With buttermilk standing in for sour cream, my "Southern" version is light, tangy, and chock-full of green herbs. It's the quintessential spring and summer dressing, and because it's all about using the freshest herbs — whether dill, chervil, sorrel, or cilantro — I almost never make it the same way twice.
  • 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup your favorite or homemade mayonnaise
  • 1 small Kirby cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 4 or 5 fresh basil or celery leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place the buttermilk, mayonnaise, cucumber, chives, tarragon, mustard, lime juice, and basil in a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use, or for up to 1 week.


  • Kirby cucumbers are smaller pickling cucumbers which can be particularly sweet. Substitute the long, slender English cucumber when Kirby's are scarce.
  • Cut pork tenderloin the same way as the chicken for pan fried pork cutlets. With pork, dried cherries are good in the salad.
  • Instead of meat, coat and fry thin-sliced yams, broccoli stems and cauliflower. Then do the salad and dressing as Sara describes.
  • Minced onion is delicious in the coating. Toss the onion with the breadcrumbs.