When I worked in catering, putting together a menu was my favourite part of the job. I didn’t care if it was a cocktail party for 65 people, or a sit-down dinner for eight. The act of coming up with a combination of food that would please the palate was like assembling a delicious puzzle, and it thrilled me.
I can’t say things are much different at home, and I’m always excited when there’s an occasion on the calendar that requires me to menu plan. For me, it isn’t just about putting together a list of things I think taste good together - though that is important, too - but I also like to think about which ingredients are in season, and if I have a balance of flavours and textures on the plate (pro tip: there should always be something that lends a little crunch).
A few weekends ago I planned a spring dinner menu just for fun. Ironically, as I was putting pen to paper, the wind was whipping around my backyard as it circled the ice pellets bouncing off the grass. Spring? It hardly seemed so, but if there’s ever time to hunker down in the kitchen it’s when you’re confined to the house because of the weather, regardless of the season. Here’s a look at what I came up with:
- Crispy Parmesan Chicken Cutlets
- Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits
- Steamed Peas with Butter and Lemon
- Broccoli Slaw
I knew I would start with the crispy parmesan chicken cutlets because they are a favourite of everyone in my family, finicky toddler included. They can be prepped in advance (see recipe) and even served at room temperature, if desired. I didn’t want to serve potatoes, rice, or pasta (again), so I settled on quick-to-make baking powder biscuits with cheddar and green onions. They are a cinch to make, but can also be baked earlier in the day if necessary (it’s all about what can be made ahead of time, don’t you think?).
The steamed peas with butter and lemon are literally a five-minute side dish that requires little effort and almost no dishes. To round out the meal, I opted for a broccoli slaw instead of a salad. I like the idea of this because you can choose to make the slaw from scratch or use a store-bought bagged slaw. If you choose the latter, my suggestion is to ditch the accompanying salad dressing and make something homemade instead. It elevates the dish and makes everything taste better.
Crispy Parmesan Chicken Cutlets
Serves 4 to 6
- 6 small boneless, skinless chicken cutlets
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or Italian-style breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 8 to 10 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 lemon, halved
1. Place a piece of chicken on a cutting board. Run a sharp knife through the centre of the chicken lengthwise to create two thin cutlets. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces and set aside.
2. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Beat eggs and mustard in a second shallow bowl. Combine panko and Parmesan in a third shallow bowl.
3. Season chicken pieces generously on both sides with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Transfer to the bowl with beaten egg and turn to coat. Remove from bowl, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko mixture, pressing to adhere evenly on both sides.
4. Heat 6 tablespoons oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 to 3 batches, cook cutlets, adding oil to pan between batches, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Serve with lemon halves.
Tip: Recipe can be prepped through to step 3 and then frozen. Place breaded chicken pieces between piece of parchment paper and freeze in resealable freezer bags. Thaw completely before continuing with the recipe.