Pan-Fried Chicken with Tomato Fennel Salad

Pan-Fried Chicken with Tomato Fennel Salad

I tend to eat a vegetarian diet most of the time. It's not because of the health risks associated with eating too much meat, the fact that meat-centered diets are unsustainable for a growing population or even the troubling nature of factory farming and processing (all valid reasons and issues we're hopefully thinking more about these days). I simply prefer the taste of vegetables, grains and legumes and feel better when I eat them.

But about once a week or so I get a primal craving for meat. Meat. MEAT!!
A hamburger, steak, some chicken wings, a great sausage  - some portion of animal protein that makes me feel totally sated. I tried to go vegetarian a few years ago and while I made it three months, I couldn't shake the hankering for meat and, even though it was probably just in my head, it felt like I was getting flimsy.

My go-to weeknight meat is a pan fried chicken breast. It's easy, fast and goes well with so many other flavors. I bread the cutlets with panko and fry them in plenty of olive oil. Sometimes they get a dip in a hot sauce/butter bath (buffalo style), or I'll deglaze the pan with fresh lemon juice and a pat of butter for a bright sauce. But today it's its own plain self serving as a platform for a fresh tomato fennel salad. The bold dressing flavors the chicken, the arugula is crunchy, the tomatoes and fennel tangy, the blue cheese is assertive and a little gooey and it's really satisfying.

Pan-Fried Chicken with Tomato Fennel Salad

Serves 2

2 boneless. skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil (for frying)
Salt and pepper

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel (about a quarter of a bulb)
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, slivered
1 clove garlic, finely minced and mashed into paste
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup arugula leaves

1. Put tomatoes, fennel, onions, olives and garlic into a small bowl. Drizzle oil and vinegars over and sprinkle with salt. Toss gently and set aside for at 15-30 minutes to give flavors a chance to blend. 

2. Pound chicken breasts into a 1/4 inch thickness (place on cutting board, cover with wax paper and go at it with a rolling pin or similar). Generously salt and pepper each side. 

3. Whisk egg in a shallow bowl or pie tin large enough to accommodate a chicken breast. 

4. Combine panko and flour in a second shallow bowl or pie tin.

5. Drag chicken through egg, turning to coat, then into panko mixture, again turning to coat. Set aside on a plate. Repeat with second chicken breast. 

6. Heat oil in large fry pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add chicken breasts and cook on one side for about 4 minutes or until brown and crusty. Flip and brown other side (you may need to adjust heat if they are cooking too quickly or slowly and add a little more oil if they seem dry). 

7. Put each chicken breast on a plate and top with arugula and tomato salad. Sprinkle with blue cheese and serve. 


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