Recipe: How to make Japanese katsu-style chicken Parmesan

The slightly sweet and super crunchy style of Japanese chicken katsu (cutlet) is the perfect base for the Italian American classic, chicken Parmesan. A touch of dark, umami-rich shoyu backs up the tangy tomato sauce, and the often-ignored fish grill included in most Japanese kitchens is the perfect tool for broiling the cheese to a bubbly golden brown. Served over white rice, or with pasta or a side of garlic bread, this dish is a best-of-both-worlds comfort.

Serves 2

Prep: 10-15 mins.; cook: about 45 mins. for the sauce, 15 mins. for the chicken.

For the sauce:

½ white onion

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

⅓ cup (80 milliliters) olive oil

1 400 gram can of tomatoes

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 pinch of sugar

• Salt, to taste

For the chicken katsu:

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, butterflied and pounded flat

4 cups (200 grams) panko

3 whole eggs, beaten

¼ cup (22 grams) grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons mirin (sweet, fermented cooking alcohol)

• Salt and pepper, to taste

• Canola or other vegetable oil

For the cheese topping:

1 cup (113 grams) shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup grated (22 grams) Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon basil

1. First, marinate the chicken. Add two tablespoons of mirin along with the chicken breast to a large freezer bag. Massage the chicken briefly in the bag to ensure that the mirin is well distributed, and allow it to relax in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight.

2. While the chicken is marinating, make the sauce. Dice half a white onion and thinly slice six cloves of garlic. In a small pot, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat with just a pinch of salt, which will help to draw out the onion’s moisture. Once the onions are translucent, add the thinly sliced garlic and saute until browned, soft and fragrant.

3. Add the can of tomatoes to the pot with the onion and garlic, crush with a wooden spoon and stir. Fill the tomato can about half way up with water to rinse out the remaining tomato juice, and add to the pot. This will not only salvage any leftover flavor from the can, but also add volume to your sauce and allow it to simmer and develop its flavors without over reducing.

4. Once the sauce comes to a boil, add the herbs, sugar, salt, pepper and soy sauce to the pot and stir. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally.

5. While your sauce is simmering, prepare the chicken. Remove the chicken breast from its marinade and pat off any excess moisture with a clean paper towel. Using a sharp knife, butterfly the chicken down the middle and lay it out flat on a plastic wrap-covered cutting board. Then, with a heavy pot, pan or mallet, evenly pound out the chicken until it’s about doubled in size. This will help your katsu cook quickly and evenly.

5. In a shallow dish, beat three whole eggs. In another shallow dish, mix your panko with the parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper and mix together thoroughly. Dip the pounded chicken into the egg and massage, making sure it’s totally coated. After allowing the excess egg to run off, add the chicken to the seasoned breadcrumbs and firmly press down. Flip over the chicken several times, ensuring every nook and cranny is thoroughly covered in the seasoned panko.

6. Over medium to high heat, pour canola, vegetable or another neutral oil into a deep saute pan or dutch oven until about 1½ centimeters deep. Once the oil is shimmering, gently add your breaded katsu to the pan, taking care not to splash the hot oil, and fry until golden brown, about four minutes on each side.

7. Remove the katsu from the oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. While it’s still hot, quickly season with a pinch of salt.

8. Finally, top the chicken katsu with two to three generous spoonfuls of sauce, along with a few generous pinches of your cheese topping mixture, enough to totally cover the chicken. Place your topped chicken katsu on a clean piece of foil, turn your fish grill or oven broiler to medium high, and allow the cheese to brown and melt. This step can go very quickly, so check the chicken every 20 to 30 seconds and remove from the broiler as soon as you’re satisfied with the color.

9. Slice into thick pieces (or leave whole) and serve over rice or pasta, or as-is with your preferred side dishes, and enjoy.

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