Food Editor's notes: This is an adaptation of Pollo Fritto per Chanuka, a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Edda Servi Machlin's The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews (Dodd, Mead & Co.) This is a traditional Chanukah dish in Italy. The oil makes it appropriate for the holiday, but of course it can be served year-round. It is a different type of fried chicken than Americans are used to, but really delicious, reminding us of scallopini al limon (chicken or veal cutlets with lemon juice and white wine). It also is healthier, using olive oil, most of which remains in the pan after the chicken is cooked. We tested three variations of this recipe – with chicken pieces, boneless breast chunks, and schnitzel-style cutlets – and all three came out tasty. Our favorite was the cutlets, as they are easiest to both cook and eat, and they had a slightly more pronounced lemon flavor due to their thinness. Don't forget to pass the lemon wedges when serving – it really perks up the flavor!
2 pounds chicken cutlets, schnitzel-style (ask your butcher to prepare these for you)
1 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
A few grinds of black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
Olive oil for frying
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
Combine the salt, nutmeg, garlic salt, and black pepper and sprinkle the chicken cutlets evenly on both sides with the mixture. Place the cutlets in a shallow bowl or container. Mix the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil and pour over the cutlets, lifting them to make sure that the liquid reaches all surfaces. Cover and let marinate for an hour or place in the refrigerator for up to several hours. The longer the chicken marinates, the more pronounced the lemon flavor will be. (When testing, we marinated the chicken for an hour on the counter and this was perfectly fine.) Move the cutlets around once in a while to insure evenness of seasoning.
Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large pan. Place the flour and beaten eggs in separate pie plates or shallow bowls. Coat the cutlets in flour and then repeat in the beaten egg. Fry in the hot oil over moderately high heat for a couple of minutes on each side, until golden brown. (Cut a small piece to make sure the chicken is cooked through.) Place on a brown paper bag or drain on a metal rack to remove any excess oil.
Serve immediately or place in a preheated 400-degree oven with the door slightly open (broiler-style) for up to 10 minutes, in order to keep warm and crisp. Serve with lemon wedges.
Sephardic Fried Chicken for Chanukah