Breading doesn’t have to refer to literal bread crumbs. It could mean cracker crumbs, sure—or, for even more flavor, nuts and seeds. In this Big Little Recipe, tiny poppy seeds turn into a nutty, floral, effortlessly crunchy crust for chicken cutlets. While other breadings might involve milk, egg, and flour as binders, no such fuss is needed here. (Which also means this crust just happens to be gluten-free and one-ingredient.)
Poppy-crusted chicken gets along with just about any simple salad. But especially well with the one spelled out here. Summery, ripe plums are treated to a red wine vinegar soak, then banged around with a potato masher so the two ingredients really get to know each other. Add extra-virgin olive oil and this turns into a tangy-sweet vinaigrette, perfect for dressing soft lettuces. (Other warm-weather stone fruit like peaches and nectarines would be really nice here, too.)
This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments. —Emma Laperruque
Salad with plum vinaigrette
plums (about 1/2 pound), pitted and finely chopped
red wine vinegar
Kosher or flaky salt
extra-virgin olive oil
head soft lettuce, such as butterhead (about ¾ pound), cored and chopped into pieces
Combine the plums, vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a big bowl.
Stir together the poppy seeds and salt on a rimmed plate. Halve the chicken breasts horizontally (so you end up with four pieces). Place parchment on top and pound the chicken to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Dredge the chicken in the poppy seeds, pressing firmly to fully coat.
Add oil to a large cast-iron skillet—you want a thin layer covering the bottom—then set on the stove over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the poppy-coated chicken. (If any poppy seeds fall off mid-transfer, you can sprinkle more on.) Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably have to do this in batches. If the chicken is overcrowded, it’ll steam instead of brown. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until the outside is crisp and the inside is cooked through (165°F). Transfer to a cooling rack to drain and sprinkle with a big pinch of salt. If you’re cooking in batches, cook the rest of the chicken in the same way, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
While the last batch of chicken is cooking, roughly smash the soaking plum pieces with a potato masher—turning some into mush, leaving others chunky. Stir in the oil. Add the lettuce, toss, and season to taste with salt and vinegar.
Serve the poppy chicken immediately with the salad on top or alongside.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.