Flour, egg, and then what?
You’re confronted with it every time you want to cook up a cutlet, whether it is a chicken breast, a turkey cutlet, or a fillet of fish. A batter dip is an option, but I usually go with the basic procedure that’s always the same : season the cutlet with salt, pepper, and whatever spice mix you like; dredge in a light coating of flour; dip in beaten egg; and then what?
Dried bread crumbs are one option, but as Jacques Pepin demonstrated in his television series, Fast Food, My Way, it takes about 8 pieces of dried bread to make a half cup of dried bread crumbs, while the same amount of fresh bread will make 2 or 3 cups of fresh crumbs. Consider the calories, especially when you’re frying your cutlet in oil. Those dried bread crumbs will soak up much more oil than fresh bread crumbs would.
Panko is a good alternative – one I use often. In Japan, panko refers to all bread crumbs. Here in the states, it refers to a white, dried, coarse bread crumb that is lighter than traditional packaged dried bread crumbs, and when cooked, give you a lighter, airy coating that browns really well. Most supermarkets carry panko in their international section.
Cracker crumbs are a good option, too. Either saltines, or the buttery Ritz crackers, whizzed to a fine powder in your food processor. These have the same downside as dried breadcrumbs, but I find they add more flavor. Instead of on a cutlet, I’ll sometimes use these on a casserole, like baked macaroni and cheese.
Corn flakes are a good option, again, whizzed in the food processor. Or potato chips. Or nacho chips. All of these provide a good crunch, and give a flavor you can’t get with plain bread crumbs. When I fry chicken, I’ll skip the egg and breadcrumbs, and marinate the chicken parts in buttermilk, and then dip them in seasoned flour. A southern touch would be to dip them in a mixture of flour and cornmeal, but I’ve also seen recipes that have you dip it in the ground corn flakes.
Ground nuts, like pecans, almonds, or macadamias, are also a good option. I’ll usually mix these, 50/50 with bread crumbs, since they tend to burn too quickly and go bitter if you’re not careful.
Finally, here’s an unusual one that works surprisingly well — mashed potato flakes. I have a package of the instant mashed potatoes for soley this purpose. I find it works really well on fish filets. It gives a uniform coating that sticks well on the fillets. The catfish fillets pictured here were coated in potato flakes, and fried in a mix of butter and canola oil.
Have you got a technique for coating filets that I haven’t mentioned? Please leave a comment!