Fried Chicken Cutlets, Italian-Jewish Style

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Yield:

    3–4

    servings

Appears in

The logs of Jerusalem were of the cinnamon tree, and when lit, their fragrance pervaded the whole of Erez Israel.

—BABYLONIAN TALMUD: SHABBAT

Fried chicken lightly flavored with cinnamon is a traditional Hanukkah specialty in Italy. Used without any sweetening, the cinnamon acts in concert here with savory garlic and lemon to produce a very fragrant yet subtle marinade.

To accentuate the delicacy of the dish, I dip the chicken in egg after dusting it lightly with matzoh meal. And I fry each batch with a few pieces of celery—a trick sent in to Cook’s Illustrated magazine by one of its readers—which makes the chicken beautifully golden and more flavorful.

Ingredients

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped (about tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for frying
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pounds skinless, boneless chicken cutlets, trimmed of fat and gristle
  • About 1 cup matzoh meal (use commercially ground—you’ll need a very fine, powdery consistency here)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2–3 celery stalks, including leaves, washed, dried well, and cut into 4- to 5-inch lengths
  • Lemon wedges
  • Fresh parsley sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Method

  1. In a large mixing bowl or nonreactive baking dish, whisk together the cinnamon, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and marinate for 2–3 hours in the refrigerator, turning the chicken occasionally.
  2. Set up a work station near the stove. Spread 1 cup matzoh meal on a large sheet of wax paper or a plate and season it with 1 teaspoon salt and teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Next to it, in a wide shallow bowl or pie pan, beat the eggs with a few drops of water until well blended and smooth.
  3. Dredge the cutlets well with the matzoh meal, rubbing it lightly into the chicken. Make sure each cutlet is covered all over with meal. If necessary, add more matzoh meal, remembering to add more seasoning.
  4. Heat about ½ cup olive oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot and fragrant but not smoking. Shake a cutlet to remove all excess matzoh meal, then coat it thoroughly with the egg and slip it quickly into the hot oil. Being careful not to crowd the pan, add more chicken, dipping each piece in the egg just before placing it in the pan. Slip a few pieces of celery in between the cutlets as they fry. Using two spatulas (tongs would ruin the delicate egg coating), carefully turn the chicken when it is light golden, 2–3 minutes. Sauté the other side for 2–3 minutes longer, or until cooked through. Turn the celery pieces when you turn the chicken. Transfer the cutlets to a platter lined with paper towels so they can drain. Discard the cooked celery. Keep the chicken warm in a 200°F oven until the remaining pieces are done. Continue frying any remaining chicken in batches, in the same way, adding fresh celery to the pan with each batch. Wipe out the skillet and replace the oil if some of the coating falls off and burns.

    Serve the chicken right away, accompanied by the lemon wedges and garnished, if you’d like, with fresh parsley. It really needs no sauce.

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