Monday, November 2, 2009

Crispy Panko Coated Chicken with Creamy Green Chili and Feta Filling

Wow I have had some bombs lately. And by 'bomb' I mean the pre hip hop definition of the word, as in giant failure. After a hamburger steak recipe that came out exactly like a frozen TV dinner, only not as good, and a tomato sauce that tasted like one of the ingredients had been dish sponge, I finally redeemed myself with this one. And just in time - I was starting to get paranoid.

These little crunchy-textured, creamy yet sharp cheese-filled piles of goodness are not hard to make but do take some prep work. The good news is you can stuff and coat the chicken and keep it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap until you're ready to fry them. Just remember to take them out about 20 minutes beforehand. This recipe made me fall back in love with chicken. You know what I mean - chicken, God love it, is so easy to take for granted, like an all too adoring boyfriend. And while I have to admit that the feta and green chili get first billing here, dill is the unsung hero. If spices were stocks on the stock market, I'd put all my money in dill and never look back.

Crispy Panko Coated Chicken with Creamy Green Chili and Feta

2 nice sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded no thinner than 1/4 inch with the flat side of a mallet or frying pan
salt and pepper to season

2 oz cream cheese, at room temp
3 oz feta cheese, at room temp
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch fresh cracked pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons diced green chilis (from the small cans - usually 4 oz)

1/2 cup flour, for dredging

Egg bath:
2 eggs, whisked with 2 tablespoons milk and 1/4 teaspoon coriander

2 cups panko mixed with 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Blend the cream cheese, feta cheese, dill, salt, pepper, and green chilis together with a fork in a small bowl until well blended. Spoon out half of the filling along the center of one of your flattened chicken pieces, gently spreading it down the center lengthwise but stopping at least 1/2 inch before the end. Fold the breast in half over the filling, so that the chicken is providing a protective nest for the filling. Repeat with the other chicken breast.

Season both sides of the chicken pouches with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour giving a nice coat but shaking off excess. Quickly prepare your egg bath and panko mixture for breading. When ready, dunk the chicken pouches thoroughly but swiftly into the egg bath making sure both sides are well coated. Shake once to remove excess liquid then press into the panko mixture - first on one side then the other, repeating for good measure. Place the coated chicken onto a holding plate or baking sheet lined with a light layer of the panko mixture as you prepare your skillet (or refrigerate on a small baking sheet on a light layer of the panko mixture covered with plastic wrap until 20 min before frying - up to 8 hours.)

Prepare a skillet by adding a 1/4 inch layer of olive oil or vegetable oil to the bottom then bringing over medium heat. Let heat through for 2 minutes, or until a pinch of panko crumbs added to the pan produces an impressive sizzle. Add the panko coated chicken, cooking for 3-4 minutes per the first side or until crispy golden brown. Using tongs, unapologetically and firmly seize the chicken turning it to the other side (if the pan has dried out add a little more oil first.) Fry again for 2-3 minutes, or until equally golden and beautiful on the other side. Transfer immediately to a holding tray or even better a baking rack. Let rest for 2 minutes, then slice them in half on the diagonal, serving at an angle. Garnish with fresh dill, parsley, or cilantro.

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