Standard Breading is Golden Perfection

 

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There’s something about those words, “Crunchy coating” or even better, “Cooked to a golden perfection.” Not many food nutritionists would advocate eating fried or deep-fried foods every day, but every now and then it’s a delicious and almost irresistible indulgence. The trick is to do it right, and one of the best, tried and true methods to ensure a beautiful result is to master the basic culinary skill of standard breading

Standard breading gives you that beautiful, golden and crispy coating that we have come to associate with some of our favourites; schnitzel, (pork, chicken, veal or turkey) are all prepared in this manner, as are chicken fingers or nuggets, fish sticks and fillets, scallops, shrimp, chicken-fried steak, tofu and fried green tomatoes. In fact, standard breading makes just about any food a treat, and is also a clever way to stretch your protein buck. Whether your goal is to have a schnitzel that covers your entire plate, or dainty bites you can pick up with two fingers and dip into a zesty aioli, standard breading is your go-to technique.

Flour, egg and breadcrumbs are the three components to standard breading and the technique is simple. First, set up three separate dishes with flour in the first, a beaten egg in the second and breadcrumbs or panko in the third. I like to use bread pans for this as they are large and deep enough for big jobs, and the high sides minimize any mess. If you don’t have three pans, don’t sweat it; pie plates, the foil ones from store-bought pies work well too, another reason to reuse and repurpose, and are especially good for large, round schnitzels. Depending on what you are preparing, you may want to jazz up the breadcrumbs with lemon zest, or savoury herbs, or maybe a little paprika and salt and pepper. You pretty much have to eyeball how much flour, egg and breadcrumbs you will need but I usually start out conservatively and just add more if I am running out before the job is done.

 

Another reason to save those pie plates

Another reason to save those pie plates

 

If you are cooking with meat or fish, pat it dry so the flour adheres well. After seasoning with salt and pepper coat the object of your desire-let’s use a chicken fillet that has been cut into strips as an example- in a light dusting of flour, covering it completely and lightly shaking off any extra flour. Next dip the coated fillet into a beaten egg. You may want to hang the fillet by your thumb and forefinger and gently run two fingers of the other hand down the length of the fillet over the egg pan to remove any excess egg. Thirdly, place the fillet in a dish of breadcrumbs and gently coat all sides. Place the fillets on a wire rack until all are ready to be fried.

 

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When it comes to frying fillets and thinner cut meats like schnitzel there is no need to deep-fry; an oil with a high smoke point mixed with a little butter does the job nicely, enough to generously coat the pan but not submerge the fillet. Heat the oils to a nice sizzle, about medium high. Keep a small bowl of oil handy as you fry and add more to the pan if you need to, especially when you turn over the fillet. Ghee or clarified butter also work well for this as they have a higher smoke point than butter.

If you want to forego the frying method altogether, you can get beautiful, cooked-to- a-golden-perfection results by baking instead of frying. Typically however, breadcrumbs and panko need high heat to get that gorgeous colour, and normal baking for the prescribed time may not be enough; your coating may be a little insipid and wan looking. Here’s the trick; before breading, microwave or pan-fry your panko or breadcrumbs in a dry pan until they are the desired colour. Microwave in a bowl for about 45 seconds, remove, stir the breadcrumbs, and repeat until you are happy with the colour. Then proceed with the breading and bake in the oven as per your recipe on a wire rack placed on a baking sheet. This method also works well for larger pieces, like chicken legs or breasts. Once you master the knack of standard breading, you will find yourself rooting around in the fridge actively seeking out things to be coated and fried or baked. From crispy smoked tofu strips to chicken-fried steak, a crunchy coating makes it all good!

 

Oven baked Fried Green Tomatoes

Oven baked Fried Green Tomatoes

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