Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chicken Katsu

When you're planning a Japanese dinner menu featuring sushi and seafood, what do you serve non-seafood eating folks? This was the question I asked myself since my brother in law is not a seafood fan. Taking inspiration from local Japanese restaurant menus, I decided to make Chicken Katsu and served it with a Homemade Teriyaki Sauce. The verdict? "This is awesome!," says my non-seafood eating brother in law...

Chicken Katsu is essentially a breaded and fried chicken cutlet, usually served with a tomato based sauce. This was definitely something by brother in law (and everyone else at the table) enjoyed aside from the maki sushi rolls we had for a Japanese inspired dinner I prepared. It was easy to make and instead of a tomato based katsu sauce, I made a homemade teriyaki sauce sauce to serve alongside of it.

The chicken is prepared by cutting a boneless, skinless chicken breast in half and pounding it thin. Then it's dredged in cornstarch - not the usual flour. I think the use of cornstarch helps seal in the juices/moisture of the chicken and helps the coating stick much better. After a quick dredge in cornstarch, it's dipped in egg and then coated in panko breadcrumbs. Since the chicken has been pounded thin, it doesn't take long to cook at all.

We also enjoyed the homemade teriyaki sauce served with the chicken katsu. Who knew it would be easy to make from scratch. A combination of soy sauce, sugar, ginger and minced garlic is boiled in a saucepan. To thicken it, a slurry of cornstarch and mirin (which could be substituted with water) is added. The mixture is then reduced down to a glaze consistency. It has a perfect balance of sweet and salty and delicious with the chicken katsu.
Chicken Katsu
recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Chicken:
1 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Teriyaki Sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set large heatproof plate on rack, and preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Place the cornstarch in a shallow baking dish; the beaten eggs in another shallow baking dish; and the panko breadcrumbs in a third shallow baking dish.

Prepare the chicken by cutting each breast in half and pound to 1/2-1/4-inch thickness. Blot the pounded chicken dry with paper towels and season the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Dredge each chicken piece in cornstarch, then dip in the beaten egg, and finally coat with panko breadcrumbs. Place breaded chops in single layer on wire rack set over baking sheet and allow coating to dry about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup oil in heavy-bottomed 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 1/2 minutes. Lay the coated chicken pieces in a skillet; fry until deep golden brown and crisp on first side, gently pressing down on cutlets with wide metal spatula to help ensure even browning and checking browning partway through, about 2 1/2 minutes. Using tongs, flip chops, reduce heat to medium, and continue to cook until meat feels firm when pressed gently and second side is deep golden brown and crisp, again checking browning partway through, about 2 1/2 minutes longer. Line warmed plate with double layer of paper towels and set chicken pieces on top; return plate to oven.

When ready to serve, remove from oven. Serve with the teriyaki sauce drizzled on top or on the side.

Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, sugar, ginger and garlic in a saucepan over medium high heat. Stir together the mirin and cornstarch until no lumps remain and then whisk it into the sauce in the saucepan. Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until reduced to 3/4 cup or takes on the texture of a glaze. Cover and remove from heat. Drizzle sauce over chicken or serve on the side.