When I was growing up my mom kept a container in the fridge labeled "Hog Casings" in which she kept safe any leftovers she thought my dad might hoard for himself. It's funny now to think that her method was clever survival, resourcefulness and self-preservation while my dad's was greed, gluttony or sneakiness. Sometimes he would shamelessly claim certain praised items while shunning the things the rest of us were forced to eat. Heck, he might even cheers us, oblivious, while happily smacking his lips after the last bite of a coveted morsel. So I certainly don't blame my mom for her ingenuity. Unless hog casings are wrapped around some awesome ground meat, it's not anything most people would take a closer gander at.
So what were the best of the best leftovers worth hiding carefully in the offensive plastic tub? Why chicken cutletkis of course. My dad's version of a legendary family specialty. A minor production involving the meticulous boning of some chicken breasts, two turns through the meat grinder, a tossing with breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, salt and pepper, a final dredging in yet more crumbs and a final fry in a generous puddle of olive oil and butter.
After years of making cutletkis the family way I have branched out with various seasonings and pairings, though the basics remain the same. The original version involved soaked bread that probably was chopped in a large wooden bowl with a hockmeisser (similar to that which chopped gefilte fish or herring)…but my dad's version used a slurry of breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley and a hefty load of salt and pepper. While I got many, many lessons in boning chicken breasts during cutletki preparation, my dad's world changed once ground chicken appeared in the grocery store. Funny thing is that I now choose to grind my own meat out of fear of what might be mixed in. Plus there is something nostalgically gross about forcing meat through a grinder. Watching it squirm through all the little holes and occasionally go POP! while a small bit flies through the air. There is really no cleanup like post-meat grinding clean up and yet it is a calming activity for me…knowing exactly what is in the ground meat I will eat and taking good care of the tools that made it. Almost the same fondness I once had for the large, scary meat slicer we owned (an anniversary gift from my dad to my mom which was not exactly what she had in mind).
It had been quite a while since I had made this dish and I decided it was time my daughter became familiar with it. So I bought some chicken breasts, ground them up and began to ponder the panade, a bready mixture that would be folded in. I know my dad would never have added onion or garlic powder, but I like hints of both. So I tossed together some bread crumbs, both seasonings, an egg, some milk and some salt, pepper, and chopped parsley (crucial!).
My dad always served cutletkis with broccoli and hollandaise or creamed spinach, but for the pictured version for my daughter and her friend, I chose instead to serve some tomatoes from the garden and some super sweet, creamy potatoes I had on hand. I dipped mine in a sriracha mayo mixture, but the girls happily ate theirs as is. I'm sure it helped that the patties were formed into the letters of their names.
Cutletkis are great, btw, with a fried egg on top the next day- especially if you have leftover creamed spinach or greens. —savorthis
Trim chicken breasts of any “grooze” or fat etc. and put through grinder OR buy some ground chicken you can trust.
Mix egg and milk in a measuring cup and add breadcrumbs to make one cup. Stir in parsley, onion and garlic powder and some s&p to taste (I always make a small test patty to test for seasoning as breadcrumbs can vary). Fold into chicken mixture.
Form into patties, coat in more breadcrumbs and fry in two batches in an equal mixture of butter and olive oil.