What I love about this recipe, which is from Bon Appetit Magazine, is that it’s the perfect escape from winter. The dish looks like it was made in high summer with its cherry tomatoes, pickled red onion and fistful of parsley leaves. Then there’s the Panzanella aspect. Great chunks of toasted peasant bread complete the salad that tops a crispy chicken breast pounded thin.
Let’s face it: In the east, we won’t see a field tomato until July. The only reliable tomatoes now are the Cherry and Grape varieties and there are plenty to choose from. Tomatoes are an amazingly diverse group. There are 10,000 tomato cultivars, all botanically fruits and all of which can trace their roots to Western South America. The Cherry tomato is believed to date from Aztec Mexico. They come in a range of sizes from that of a fingernail to the size of golf balls. They’re usually red but you can buy a box with yellow, green and black and red altogether which is what I’d recommend here. The cherry tomatoes that are oblong are called Grape Tomatoes. They too can be used here but they don’t have the range of color that Cherry Tomatoes do. The first tomatoes cultivated in Europe in the 16th Century were yellow cherry tomatoes. In Italian, a tomato is called a Pomodoro which translated means ‘Golden Apple”.
Whatever their color, they were a hard sell in Europe. As they are member of the deadly nightshade family of plants, they were thought to be poisonous. This was not helped by the interaction of the acid in their juice with pewter plates which were widely used and which contain lead. Tomato’s juice leeched lead from plates and the result was lead poisoning. No one made the connection to the plates and so the tomato got the blame. They were called ‘Poison Apples’ as a result.
The country likely more associated with the tomato more than all others, Italy, starting growing tomatoes in 1548. They were grown strictly as ornamental plants. In Florence, the fruit was used as a tabletop decoration and wasn’t incorporated into local cooking until the end of the 17th century. The earliest culinary reference to tomatoes was a cookbook published in Naples in 1692. And it was because of Neapolitan invention that in the 1880s the popularity of the tomato soared. That invention? Why Pizza of course.
To make today’s recipe, look for a whole chicken breast, preferably one with as much skin on it as possible. You have to carefully pull the breast meat away from the bones so it’s pure chicken. Then you pound the breasts to a ¼ inch thickness. Hopefully you’ll end up with a layer of fat under the skin to give your chicken breasts the crunch that adds great texture to the dish. Get everything ready before you put the chicken on the stove to cook. The chicken will cook lightning fast so you want to be ready to top the chicken with the panzanella ‘salad’ the moment the breasts are done. This recipe is for 4. I cut in it half but as I often do, the only thing I altered was the number of chicken breasts. I didn’t change one quantity for the salad. Here is the recipe.
Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Cherry Tomato Panzanella
Like Summer on a Plate in the dead of winter. A lively delicious salad tops crispy chicken breast pounded thin.
- 1/4 small onion, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, divided
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup torn country-style bread, (from about 1/4 small loaf)
- 2 skin-on, bone-in whole chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes
- Pinch of sugar
- 3/4 cup parsley leaves with tender stems
- Step 1 Combine onion and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, set aside.
- Step 2 Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add bread. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until golden brown, 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Wipe out skillet.
- Step 3 Using a thin, sharp knife, cut bones and cartilage from chicken breasts. Pound chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4″ thick. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 4 Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook 1 chicken breast, skin side down, until golden brown and nearly cooked through, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until cooked through, about 1 minute more. Second side will not brown. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining cutlet and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (no need to wipe out skillet).
- Step 5 Cut half of tomatoes in half. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in same skillet over medium-high. Add whole tomatoes, Season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly blistered and starting to burst, about 5 minutes. Toss in sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar. Transfer to bowl with croutons. Add pickled onion with pickling liquid, halved tomatoes, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss. Serve chicken with panzanella spooned over.