Experiments


I have heard of panko breadcrumb before. I have heard of it on the food network, I have heard of it all over blogland. The Japanese bread crumb, made to be a breadcrumb, not made from bread that was then crumbed. Or however you would say that. However, in my neck of the woods I’m lucky to find seasame seed oil, people. Coconut milk, we’ve got, and udon noodle, and a double handful of prepackaged sauces, at least half of which are only Asian in the American sense. However, when we went to a larger city, we stopped at a specialty food store to check out their wares. We weren’t thinking specifically of panko breadcrumb at the time, but they had it there, and we picked some up.

Now, obviously it looked different. The chunks were bigger. The crumbs looked nothing like crumbs at all, they actually looked like tiny shards of bread. They were definitely crisper, with a nice bite to them even raw. However, would they be as good as regular? Different can mean bad! An experiment, then: I would “waste” some of them on plain, boring chicken strips. We knew we liked these. We were familiar with them, and we could compare them to our favorites. Also, as further control, I would make some with regular, plain breadcrumb – just in case there was something in my technique that altered the way the chicken tenders tasted.

I picked up the precut tenders from the butcher section, since they were on sale and would save me a lot of work. I came home, rinsed them (can never be too careful!) and then proceeded to dip. All of them went first into plain flour and then for a short rest. (practical purposes, 1) to wash your hands and the board, and 2) the tenders are less squishy and gross that way) Then, all of them went into milk seasoned with ginger, salt, pepper, paprika, and chili powder. Then, finally, 1/2 of them went into the panko, and the other half went into the 75% breadcrumb/25%flour mixture I usually use in breading. normally I season in the breadcrumb mixture, but I wanted to be very sure that the exact proportions of seasoning were correct, and not somehow effected by the panko or breadcrumb dipping process. I would have put it in the first flour dip, but I had already dipped them in the flour and was letting them rest when I thought of not being able to season the breadcrumbs as per normal.

Anyway, so then I pan-fried them, 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness. I served them with a peanut dipping sauce, in honor of the panko, though honey mustard was available for trial. We ended up not using it.

The panko were by far superior in crispness and they also cooked better. The plain breadcrumb variety were easy to either undercook (the breadcrumb never became crisp, not the chicken) or burn, whereas the panko very quickly came to a crisp, golden brown coating, but did not burn until well after the chicken was cooked through. Both tenders were very…well, tender, however, the panko were slightly juicier. The panko variety were also considerably less greasy in our first run.

In further tests on just the panko, I discovered that the heat must be quite high for them to cook properly, as they are very absorbent of oils at a low temperatures. This leads to a greasy, soggy coating that was quite abhorrent. Using less oil was also not an option, as then the panko breadcrumb did burn, and quickly. Use a very thin coating of oil, and keep the heat very high (350) for best results.

Yum!

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So a while ago, my mother purchased this cranberry jalepeno salsa/jelly out of curiosity. The vendor at the kitchen store told her to try it with cream cheese and crackers. She did so, while Josh and I were there, and ohmiword people, this stuff is amazing. Knock your socks off, out of the water amazing.

Of course, I had to try to recreate it. All recipes searched proved utterly incorrect (I knew there was no cilantro whatever from the ingredients tin, also a lack of cilantro taste. It wasn’t gelatinous at all, and quite sweet) so I had to engineer my own. A couple in particular (here and those found here) helped more than others, but largely this is a memory recall.

It didn’t taste quite the same, and mine is considerably chunkier than the original, but it is equally spectacular. I also couldn’t find plain cranberries, so I had to hydrate dried ones. It was still a smashing success.

Cover a double handful of dried cranberries with water and let them hydrate. Microwaving will expedite this process. My double handful came out to about a cup of basically rehydrated berries. They were still shriveled, but they weren’t taking any more water. I left in 1 tablespoon of “water” but if you are using regular berries, you should use cranberry juice. Just squish some out of the berries.

Now, chop one large jalapeƱo. Did I say chop? I meant mince. Finely. Like water. Be a human food processor! Or, better, actually chop them in a mini food processor. You don’t want pieces of this, kay? Also, take out the seeds and membrane.

Mix this in. Also mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey and a 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir (it helps if the berries are slightly warm from the rehydration, but I’m sure it works fine otherwise).

Let stand in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Pour out over 1 package of softened cream cheese (it’s fine if you don’t soften, just put out spreading utensils for your guests). Put crackers around the cream cheese and eat!

So this evening, I made dinner based on my cravings, rather than trying to compromise the likes of Josh, myself, and our housemate. This can be difficult, as Josh and housemate are definitely guy-guys, and wholeheartedly dislike most vegetables, except for the handful of which I dislike. Gratuitous salad is a no-no, even if it is topped with deep fried chicken. (There is one exception, for which you should tune in tomorrow)

They like meat. Meat, meat, sauce, meat, fattening thing, meat, okay beans. Calories, fat grams, etc — but they are also okay with eating only twice a day. I prefer lots of lighter meals.

But today I was craving fruit. Fruit! Girly, sweet-but-not-candy, strawberries, mint…light, thin, low-cal.

Oh, boy. Well, both of them like chicken. A few internet searches gave me an implausible recipe: Mint chicken, stuffed with all manner of things that Josh won’t eat. But the idea, mint chicken, I could work with. I took some chicken and marinated it in lemon juice (1/2 cup), citrus rum(1 oz) , and muddled fresh mint(5-6 leaves). I would mute it with a bit of water next time, as it was strong – or marinate less long, but it seems for most people to be convenient to marinate exactly as long as they are at work.

Then, I made a mint syrup by heating 1/2 cup of water with 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan and added 4 more mint leaves, sliced into strips (roll them all up together, and then slice, for ease). I cooked this until it was a thick syrup. I marinated a flat (pound) of strawberries and 4 bananas in that.

Right before dinner, I cooked the chicken to almost-done, and then I yanked it back out and put the whole lot on skewers. Lacking a grill, I sauteed for a minute, but if you have a grill, you should.

The whole thing was easy (if messy – sticky syrup everywhere!) and absolutely delicious. And though it is definitely girl-food, Josh said he liked it, and he really liked the change of pace. The house mate, on the other hand, was definitely not as enthused. Apparently he dislikes bananas and strawberries. Oops.