4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, approximately 2 pounds
2 t ground garlic
1/8 t ground black pepper
2 cups Buttermilk
1 1/2 cup panko
1 cup Pecorino Romano, shredded
1 1/2 t ground garlic
1/2 t smoky Paprika
1/4 t ground black pepper
1/8 t cayenne
Pinch of salt
Optional: 1/4 t Tabasco sauce, added to the marinade
Spoon Mage™ Note:
Most cooks have one variation or another on an oven fried chicken theme. This recipe reflects the way my family eats, blending Italian seasonings with a bit of Creole spice, mixing it all up with the excellent crunch of Japanese style breadcrumbs called panko! The first time I made chicken in this way, my then college aged son exclaimed, “This is awesome! I’d pay $30 for that in a restaurant!” High praise indeed.
Sometimes you end up with chicken breasts that appear to be on steroids. Massively thick things that weigh about a pound each. If that is all you can find, just buy two. Slice them in half horizontally, magically creating four thinner pieces of chicken.
Thick chicken breasts can cause a bit of trouble with cook time. When the cook timer goes off, check to see if the juices run clear in the thickest part (it is very hard to get them all equally 1/4 inch thick). Completely cooked chicken is more important than the adhering to the correct length of cook time. Be mindfully flexible.
Place one of the four chicken breasts inside a Ziploc freezer bag and partially seal the bag. Use the flat side of a wooden meat mallet to whack the chicken until it is pretty much the same height. Anywhere from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch is fine. The thicker the chicken, the longer it takes to cook and the panko may brown before the chicken is done. Flatten the chicken as evenly as possible or you will have one nicely cooked end and one dried out and very chewy thinner end.
Repeat with the other three breasts.
Place all four breasts inside a fresh Ziploc freezer bag – the old one may have a hole or two from all that whacking and there is nothing messier than buttermilk leaks in your fridge.
Sprinkle the chicken with 2 teaspoons of ground garlic and ground black pepper to taste. If you love spicy foods, this is when you add the Tabasco.
Pour the buttermilk inside the bag. Massage the bag a few times to make sure all the chicken breasts are covered with marinade. Seal the bag tightly, and place in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours. About 30 minutes before baking, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. This is an important step. If your chicken is cold it will not cook in the time described and may well take so long to cook the rest of your dinner will be cold.
Preheat the oven to 500° F.
While the chicken comes to room temperature and the oven gets hot, line your largest baking pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
Mix the panko, Pecorino Romano, garlic, smoky paprika, ground black pepper, cayenne, and salt in a medium sized bowl.
Remove one piece of chicken from the bag and press the top side into the panko mixture. Turn the chicken over and press the seasoned crumbs onto the other side. Repeat with the other three breasts and discard the marinade. Don’t try to pack the mixture thickly onto the chicken, just press it on evenly.
Lay the chicken pieces out on the prepared pan without crowding. For crispy deliciousness, there should be space between each piece or they will steam and the bottoms will become rather soggy. They will still be tasty though and are not ruined. Increase the cook time by 5-10 minutes if you do not have a pan big enough to spread the breasts out.
If you wish, spray the tops of the chicken with buttery flavored non-stick spray.
Place the pan in the oven and roast the beautifully seasoned chicken for 20 minutes. Check that the juices run clear in the thickest part. If there is any pink at all, return to the oven and continue to cook for another 5 minutes before checking again. Roasting will take longer if the chicken is too thick or if the pan is too crowded. It all just takes practice. You will be fine.