Fried chicken, the mother of all comfort foods. Every culture that has access to this wonderful, albeit, kind of dirty, two-footed, two-winged bird has figured out some way to fry it into something bigger than you could imagine, had you never eaten it. Fried chicken (with a little Cuban inspiration) happens to be my absolute favorite food. When someone asks you if you could have one food to eat for the rest of your life if you were stranded on a deserted island, I wouldn’t even have to think about it. 100% fried chicken. Now, I’m not talking the southern fried chicken, which is also worthy of praise, but my choice would be something different. My kind of fried chicken is the thin chicken breast cutlet, breaded with the traditional three-step method of breading in flour, eggs, and bread crumbs.
Honestly, I first stumbled on this type of golden deliciousness on a trip, not to Cuba, but to Israel. The smell of fresh produce hits you hard when you walk out of the airport into Jerusalem. Even the hotel buffet was fully stocked with almost any kind of produce you could imagine, several kinds of olives, fresh tomatoes that resemble nothing that we have in a grocery store here, and of course, the melons are beautiful and taste like heaven. Everything, just everything, was amazing. It was a day after riding on a large tourist boat in the Sea of Galilee that I first fell in love with this chicken. Of course, we were on a large lake, so the main dish that this restaurant served was, of course, a whole, grilled fish.
At that slightly post-pubescent time in my life, I wanted nothing to do with fish, but gravitated toward the fish-hater’s favorite go-to, chicken, which on this menu, was chicken schnitzel. I watched as everyone’s fish, eyes and all, came out, and anxiously awaited my chicken. And there it was. One of the biggest, but thinnest, pieces of breaded chicken I had ever seen, served simply with a lemon. That’s when the fried chicken cutlet became my desert island food.
So what does this have to do with Cuban food? I make this chicken often, and after also falling in love with limes, which I would miss dearly if I ever had to choose between them and fried chicken, I usually use the Cuban method of marinating the chicken cutlets in lime juice and a little bit of garlic before breading them. This adds a bit of extra flavor and lightness to an often heavy fried food.
Cuban Fried Chicken Cutlets
Notes: I don’t marinate these too long, because they get too lime-y. I usually serve with lime, and if I’m feeling indulgent, put some hot sauce on these. While you can use regular seasoned bread crumbs from the can, i prefer Panko because it fries up crispier and lighter tasting.
- 4 chicken cutlets, pounded thin
- juice of 1 lime
- 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup flour
- 2 room temperature eggs
- 1/8 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- oil for frying
- meat pounder
- large frying/saute pan
- 3 lipped plates
- paper towel
- Make sure cutlets are pounded to about 1/4 inch.
- Squeeze lime into bowl and add chicken, stirring to evenly coat chicken.
- Crack eggs in one lipped plate, add milk, and pinch of salt. Pour flour into the next lipped plate, and bread crumbs into the last. Add garlic powder, pinch of salt, and pinch of pepper to flour. Mix the flour mixture well so that the spices are evenly distributed.
- Fill the pan with oil, so that there is about a 1/2 inch even layer of oil in the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat.
- Take the cutlets out of the lime juice marinade and bread them by placing each one in flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. Place each cutlet aside until all are breaded.
- Place first two cutlets in pan and fry until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and fry the cutlet on other side, for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove the first batch of cutlets and place on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 for next two cutlets.
- Serve with a lime wedge and enjoy!