Of all the cooking cultures that have put their own spin on schnitzel, this Israeli-inspired riff might be my favorite. No wonder; it comes from a new cookbook called “Sababa” (Avery), whose Tel Aviv-based author, Adeena Sussman, is a whiz at developing and adapting recipes with a modern sensibility.
Like kosher cooks in Israel have done for decades, she pan-fries the pounded-thin cutlets in oil instead of butter, and uses chicken instead of the classic Austrian call for veal. What makes Sussman’s recipe particularly appealing for a crunch fan like me is its seasoned blend of panko and roasted sesame seeds. The coating stays in place, thanks to a brief respite before the chicken hits the pan, and it reaches a golden brown apogee every time, right on cue, graced with the nutty goodness that sesame delivers.
This is not a fry to be afraid of, because a modest amount of oil is needed. From my measured testing, just a few tablespoons are actually absorbed. This is non-greasy schnitzel, folks!
You can buy chicken thighs that are already boned and skinless or use the bone-in, skin-on variety. It takes about 5 minutes to prep them, with the added bonus of reserving the bones for homemade stock and the skin for savory gribenes.
Crispy Sesame Chicken Schnitzel
Adapted from “Sababa,” by Adeena Sussman (Avery, 2019).
1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic (aka garlic powder)
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, plus more as needed
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flour
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 14 ounces total weight, from 1 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs; see note)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Combine the panko, sesame seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the garlic powder, paprika, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a shallow dish. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate dish; whisk together the flour and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt in another dish.
Trim any excess fat from the chicken. Season the chicken lightly with salt and black pepper, plus a little more cayenne, if desired. Working with one piece at a time, place each thigh between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness of about 1/ 4 inch.
Coat each piece of pounded chicken first in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess; then in the egg; and then in the seasoned panko, pressing so the meat is evenly and completely coated. Place on a rimmed baking sheet; let the pieces sit for 10 minutes (this will help the coating adhere during cooking). Discard any remaining egg and seasoned flour; you should have used all the panko mixture.
When you are ready to fry, place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Heat the oil until shimmering in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
Lay two of the coated chicken pieces in the pan; fry for about 2 1/2 minutes, until the underside is golden brown, then use tongs to turn them over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on the other side. Transfer to the wire rack to drain while you cook the remaining chicken.
Serve warm, or at room temperature.
Yield: 2 servings
Note: Pull the skin off each chicken thigh; lay flat and freeze in plastic wrap for another use, if desired. To remove the bone, place a thigh skin/skinned side down on a cutting board. Use a small, sharp knife to scrape away the flesh from one end of the bone and along the sides. Sever the connections at one end of the bone and then the other, and cut away any remaining bits of cartilage or joints.
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