The day we first made schnitzels at the Dinner Ladies was the day we happily hung up our home schnitzel-making hats. It is a messy old business. The flour-egg-crumb combo seems as well designed for coating fingers, benchtops and small children as it is for breading the schnitzel in question. But, the sad truth is that a good ready-made schnitzel is hard to find (unless you have a sneaky few of ours stashed in the freezer) so here’s our recipe for a slightly fancier than usual schnitty, with an Italian-inspired trio of Parmesan, lemon zest and thyme adding an extra layer of flavour to the crunchy panko crumbs. We’re not normally fans of garlic powder but it does work in this recipe where fresh garlic would clump – feel free to leave it out if you like.
650g free-range chicken breast fillets
5 tbs plain flour
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Good pinch of garlic powder
2 free-range eggs, beaten
1.5 cups panko breadcrumbs
3 tbsp grated Parmesan
1 tsp thyme leaves, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
To cook: neutral flavoured cooking oil (grapeseed, peanut, rice bran, etc)
To serve: lemon wedges, mashed potato, vegetables or slaw
Slice each breast lengthways, giving two escalopes of equal thickness. Place between two sheets of baking paper and pound with a mallet till about 1 cm thin.
Prepare the flour mixture by mixing flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder and spreading it on a plate.
Pour the beaten egg onto another plate.
Mix together the panko crumbs, Parmesan, thyme and lemon zest and spread onto a third plate.
Okay, now this is the tricky part: keep your left hand for the flour and egg, which will get messy, and your right hand for the panko. Take each beaten escalope in your left hand and toss in the flour mix, shake and then toss in the beaten egg. Allow to drip, then, with your right hand, press into the herby panko crumbs.
Place the finished schnitzels onto a clean plate, ready to cook immediately – or place in a storage container between layers of baking paper and refrigerate or freeze till you need them.
Preheat your oven to 100C.
To cook: pour a neutral flavoured cooking oil into a medium-large frying pan, enough to come 1.5 cm up the sides. When hot enough for a crumb to sizzle, shallow fry the schnitzel in batches, allowing plenty of room for each schnitzel. When the schnitzel is golden brown on one side (about 3-4 minutes), flip and cook the other side. Drain on paper towel and keep warm in a low oven while you finish cooking the rest.
Serve with lemon wedges, mash and a simple green vegetable like buttered beans or a slaw. Given the Italian-leaning nature of the flavourings, a cabbage and fennel slaw dressed with lemon juice and olive oil would be perfect!