Chicken Katsu with Rice & Quick Pickles

I’ve never been patient. Even when I was two-years-old, I hated waiting. I shouted when I wanted to get out of bed, no matter what time it was. I screamed for cookie dough. I wanted things and I wanted them now.

Today, not much has changed. The only difference is that I’m now impatient about more adult things: leaving jobs I’ve come to hate, waiting in lines at the grocery store, sitting in traffic, or checking things off my to do list. No matter how my life looks and no matter how much yoga I do, I’m just not a patient person.

We’re leaving Boston to move to Seattle in about six weeks and I’m becoming a ball of not-so-patient misery. Now that I know we’re moving, I’m wrapped up in melancholy bittersweetness about my days. I want to enjoy this city that I’ve grown up in, to experience everything before I go. I’m making plans, checking things off my bucket list, and saying yes to all the hangout invitations I get. But mostly, I’m moving around a lot to forget that soon, I’m moving for good. Soon, I’m leaving behind a place I love with people I love.

Until I move, you can expect that I’ll be channeling that antsy energy into cooking up a storm. So here’s one of my newest recipes, inspired by a story in this month’s Bon Appetit.

Chicken Katsu with Rice & Quick Pickles

Serves 4. Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.
Or “Chicken for when you’re feeling antsy as hell.”
  • 1.5 cups rice
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, seasoned heavily with salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1-2 cups canola oil
  • 1/4 cucumber, sliced thin into rounds
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • sesame seeds
  • Optional: Hoisin sauce, hot sauce, green onions

To make the quick pickles, slice a quarter of a cucumber into paper-thin rounds. In a bowl, top the cucumbers with a pinch of salt and 2 T rice wine vinegar. Mix and leave on the counter for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook 1.5 cups of rice according to the directions on the package.

Next, slice the chicken breasts in half lengthwise, so they’re 1/2 inch thick. If they seem too thick, pound them thin (the back of an ice cream scoop works well if you don’t have a mallet). Season with salt and let sit on the counter for 10 minutes, bringing them up to room temperature slowly.

In 3 wide bowls, set up your dipping stations: panko breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper; 2 eggs, beaten; and 1/4 cup flour. Add canola oil to a pan and set to high heat — you want it to be about 1 inch deep, so I like to use my 8-inch cast iron, but you can use any kind of pan. Wait until the oil is hot. (To test it, toss a tiny piece of chicken into the oil. If it sizzles, you’re ready to roll. If not, wait til little bubbles crop up around the piece.)

Dip each piece of chicken into the bowls in this order: flour, eggs, panko. Cover completely, then shake off excess coating in each bowl before moving the chicken to the next topping. Once the chicken is covered, drop it into the hot oil. Complete this process with as many pieces of chicken as fit in your pan — you’ll probably have to make these in 2 batches, which is fine. Fry the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Then move the chicken onto a paper towel to drain. To check for doneness, cut into it with a sharp knife.

To serve, cut one piece of chicken across the grain into 1/2-inch-wide slices and serve over 1/2 cup of rice. Top the pickles with sesame seeds, then add a small pile of pickles to the side of the plate. Drizzle the chicken with hoisin sauce (Asian BBQ sauce), hot sauce, or another sauce of your choosing. Enjoy!

**This recipe makes great next-day crispy chicken salads and sandwiches for lunch. And this breading method — flour, egg, panko — also works with nearly every meat. It’s especially good with cod and shrimp.

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