Busy Season Dinners: Crispy Panko Chicken Pasta with Dirty Beshamel Sauce

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Day 2 and I caught a break….by getting out of the office at 7 PM!  Victory of victories!  You know what that means…another quick and dirty recipe for all you grinders out there.  If you happened to buy some chicken for my last recipe (Faux Chicken Confit), you should have some leftover and if not…I know your roommate has a pack that’s been chillin’ in the back of your freezer since time immemorial.  Tonight, we’re gonna end its misery.

Short story: chicken breast, coated in panko (much crunchier than normal bread crumbs), topped on linguine, drenched in a beshamel sauce (one of the French “mother” sauces made of milk, flour, and butter) that’ll make all your future white sauces look like they need a proper tan.

Put down your laptop, tell your Manager you’ll sign on in a bit (coz we all know you will), and let’s get crackin’.

INGREDIENTS:
2 chicken breasts, sliced in 2″ long strips (if the one your roommate was keeping for posterity looks a little green, pass on it)
2ish cups of panko bread crumbs or enough to cover the chicken thoroughly
2 eggs, beaten in a bowl (to coat the chicken)
1 summer squash or zuchinni, diced into thick chunks (opt.)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 a red onion, diced
1 tbsp. capers (opt.)
2 – 3 tbsps. flour (to make the sauce) + 1/4 c. flour (to coat the chicken)
3 – 4 c. milk (except skim or soy…boy were those disasters…)
A thin slice of butter (normal people standard size slice…don’t go all Paula Deen on this one)
Salt, pepper, and any spices you’d like to use

WITH HASTE:
1) Coat your chicken in the bread crumbs using this basic method:
a. Spread 1/4 c. flour on a plate and season with a bit of salt, pepper, and choice of spices (I used Old Bay and cayenne).
b. Spread your panko bread crumbs on a separate plate.
c. Beat 2 eggs into a bowl.
c. Using one hand for mixing the chicken into the dry ingredients and the other hand for dipping into the egg, dip your chicken assembly line-style into these ingredients in order: flour, egg, crumbs.  There’s a scientific reason for this but we won’t go into the details now.

2) In a skillet, saute your vegetables on high in some oil for about 5 minutes or until summer squash is tender.  Transfer to separate plate.

3) Fry your chicken in batches with the heat on medium until golden brown.  Make sure the fire is not too hot as to burn the crust but just high enough to keep the oil from seeping in.  Test a chicken by slicing into it to ensure it’s done.

4) Once you’re done frying, scrape any burnt bits out of the pan and pour a teaspoon or so more oil to coat the pan.  Toss in the remaining 2 – 3 tbsps. of flour into the oil (less flour = thinner sauce).  Stir it well so that the flour is coated in oil and begins to toast.  Unlike regular beshamel, ours is going to be tainted with all the good drippings from the chicken and vegetables earlier, creating an earthier brown sauce.  And since Dirty Beshamel sounds…well…”dirtier”, I’m gonna call it as such.

5) Once the flour is pretty much well coated, pour in your milk a little at a time, stirring the flour to incorporate it into the milk.  Once you’ve gotten all the lumps out by stirring well, reduce the heat to low and let thicken to desired consistency (about 5 mins.), seasoning to taste and dropping in the butter if you’d like to (I didn’t).

6) BOOM! Plate that shi*, top with some capers, and log back on to work.  They don’t call it Busy Season for nothing!

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