Happy New Year! It’s been such a long time… I hope you are all doing well and haven’t completely forgotten about me! Have you also made new year’s resolutions? This time, apart from the usual ones (eating healthier, being more disciplined, organised, etc..), my most important one was to be more creative in my kitchen (especially compared to the few last months when I literally cooked nothing new) and, also, start blogging again. I could bore you with a long list of reasons explaining my long absence, not only here, but also from my dear friends’ blogs, and I’d like to apologise especially for the latter, but I can sum it up saying I totally lacked motivation, enthusiasm and inspiration. In the meantime I have been terribly missing all my blogging friends, my dear visitors and of course posting on my blog too and hope this very first simple recipe marks the end of this gloomy period.
Before I mention the above salad, let’s start with chicken katsu or rather tonkatsu. Tonkatsu (トンカツ) is one of my favourite Japanese dishes (if not the most favourite!), it’s (and I don’t exaggerate!) the first and the last thing I eat during my yearly holidays in Japan. Presenting it as “breaded pork cutlet” obviously doesn’t do it justice. The Japanese version is so much more than the European schnitzel or kotlet schabowy. First of all tonkatsu is deep-fried (which makes it less fatty than the Western shallow-frying, though of course still not a diet food!). Japanese dry panko crumbs, used instead of standard breadcrumbs, yield much much crispier lighter results. Moreover, tonkatsu is usually quite thick and juicy (not from deep-frying oil!) and the restaurants in Japan often serve several different pork breeds, some quite expensive, so it’s far from being an ordinary schnitzel-like dish. Chicken katsu, as its name suggests, is a poultry version prepared in the same way, but even though it’s well known by the Japanese, I’ve never seen it in restaurants!
As I’ve mentioned, I’m a huge fan of tonkatsu (and chicken katsu too) and the only thing that used to stop me from making it often was the fat content from deep-frying. Thanks to Nami from Just One Cookbook, I’ve learnt how to bake both tonkatsu and chicken katsu and thus am able to have them both as often as I wish, though from time to time I treat myself to deep-fried cutlets, which remain the best. I baked it so many times, I even invented a super-lazy baked katsu method without egg and flour coatings (see the TIPS below).
Whenever I prepare tonkatsu or its chicken version, I always have some leftovers, usually eaten in sandwiches (fantastic, by the way!). This salad is for me a new way to use up these leftovers and a nice change from the sandwiches. I found the combination of chicken katsu with creamy rich Caesar sauce so good, I made these cutlets once more especially for the purpose of this salad, which I find perfect for when one is fed up with typical winter stews or soups.
TIPS: This is my lazy version of baked chicken katsu : I don’t coat it in egg or flour, as it is traditionally made (the oven version too), but simply brush it with oil or butter. The oil makes the breadcrumbs stick to the meat, though not as well as the traditional flour and egg coating (for me it’s sticky enough). I think coconut oil pairs very well with panko, even though it’s not Japanese at all.
You can of course make this salad with traditional deep-fried chicken katsu or tonkatsu (see the recipe here).
Apart from the lettuce (or other green leaves), you can add any raw vegetables you like. I find some mini-tomatoes actually quite good in winter (the organic Sicilian ones I buy in winter taste actually better than the local mino-tomates in full season!).
If I want to keep Caesar sauce for several days in the fridge, I add store-bought mayonnaise instead of the egg yolk (to be precise, I use low-kcal Japanese Kwepie mayonnaise, the only low-kcal mayonnaise I love). Thus, it keeps well for a week.
Preparation: about 50 min
Ingredients (makes two individual salads):
2 small chicken breasts
oil (I like here coconut oil, though it’s not Japanese at all) or butter
8 heaped tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 small lettuce (or any other type of green leaves)
tomates (mini or normal, if you find edible big ones in winter…)
red or yellow sweet pepper
2-4 preserved anchovy fillets, depending on how much you love anchovies (if they were preserved in salt, wash them) or 1/2-1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 raw egg yolk or 1 heaped tablespoon mayonnaise
1 big garlic clove, crushed
4 tablespoons olive oil
juice from half a lime (or 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons grated parmesan + some more to sprinkle or shave just before serving
pepper, salt (though usually you don’t need salt because Worcestershire sauce and anchovies are salty enough)
First preheat the oven to 190°C (°F).
Heat the panko in a big frying pan (without fat) at medium heat, stirring until it’s golden. Put aside (it burns quickly!).
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, brush them with oil or butter and coat them with panko (I press the panko to the chicken breasts with my hands to make sure most of it sticks).
Put the chicken breasts on baking paper and bake 20-25 minutes until, when pierced with a tooth pick the running juices are clear, not pink. The time will depend on the oven and the size of chicken breasts.
Prepare the Caesar sauce, mixing all the ingredients.
Divide the vegetables into two bowls, top with sliced chicken katsu, serve with the Caesar sauce and shaved/grated parmesan.