My earliest memory of eating Polish food is from eight years ago when I lived in Los Angeles. I was a student and had just seen a great film set in Poland in the late 1980’s, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film about Love. The evening ended at a small, cozy, family-owned Polish restaurant in LA. I was vegetarian at the time and the restaurant served me a meatless dinner so unusual and delicious that I still remember the flavors of the sweet tomato and corn kernel based soup, with fresh herbs, drizzled with sweet heavy cream.
Little did I know then that years later I would feel completely at home in Warsaw, eating meat stuffed pierogies cooked in pork fat with bits of crispy pork bits on top; creamy, dark soup made with a variety of forest mushrooms; or my absolute favourite cold Polish style borsht soup with pickled beets and dill, turned pink with plenty of sour cream.
Polish food is light on the spices but not bland. The Polish are extremely proud of their cuisine, which consists of a dishes prepared with varying degrees of complexity. One of the easiest is the pounded chicken cutlet. I learned how to make this from my friend who grew up in the Polish resort town of Zacopane. I prepare it when I want a foolproof meal that appeals to everyone.
Instead of traditional bread crumbs, I prefer to use panko, Japanese style bread crumbs with larger flakes that gives the end product a crunchier texture.
4 chicken breasts
1 cup panko or bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
•Preheat oven to 180 degrees (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
•This dish can either be made with chicken breasts or chicken thighs. Cover the chicken pieces with plastic wrap and pound the chicken with a mallet until the pieces are quite thin.
• Melt a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of the chicken pieces with butter. Season with salt, pepper and crushed dried parsley. Dip each piece in the beaten egg and coat with panko or bread crumbs.
• Warm 1-2 tablespoons of oil on a nonstick pan at medium heat. Fry the chicken on both sides until the pieces are cooked but are not browned.
• Place the chicken in a single layer on a baking pan and place in the oven for 7-10 minutes.