Use Fancy Potato Chips to Bread Your Chicken
Dill-pickle-chip chicken? Salt-and-vinegar-chip chicken? Japanese-shrimp-chip chicken? The possibilities are as wide as the snack aisle.
Otherwise a scrupulous adherent of heathy dinners, my grandma got her wildest in the kitchen when, very occasionally, she'd make potato-chip chicken for the grandkids when we were growing up. I'm pretty sure it was the only time she'd be caught with potato chips in the house, so those rare potato-chip-chicken suppers were sweet indeed.
Are you familiar with PCC? It's like breaded chicken, except the breading is crushed-up chips. Who could possibly object? The chips, here, do the bird a great credit, providing salt, fat, crunch, and flavor.
Let's linger on this bit about flavor. Back then it was always plain chips. But it occurred to me recently that it didn't need to be. Might not seasoned potato chips have something to add here—providing all the above benefits, but with an extra kick of flavor? I felt that I was particularly well-positioned to find out: from the bodega around the corner to the excellent Korean grocer down the street, my neighborhood offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to potato chips. There's nothing you can't get, including—I was delighted to find out when I moved here—stuff from Zapp's, the Louisiana chip maker whose legendary products include Spicy Cajun Crawtators, meant to evoke a seafood boil, and Voodoo, chips which evoke heaven itself. (The story goes that, as with all the best inventions, this particular flavor was created when a Zapp's employee accidentally mixed a bunch of disparate spices together and found the mishap delicious.)
Can you crush up these chips and use them, to pleasurable effect, to bread a cutlet of chicken? Is there a flavor shortcut to be found here—a sort of one-stop shopping trip in terms of seasoning? The answer to both questions: yes. It works with flavored chips as ubiquitous as dill pickle, which you can get at any gas station, and also with rarer commodities like Calbee Shrimp Chips, which are extremely worth seeking out at an Asian market (for chicken breading and for life in general). And/or you can shop local. You can get your chips from Better Made, if you're in Detroit. Mikesell's, if you're in Ohio. Utz, if you're in Maryland. The country is a rich tapestry of regional potato chip brands.
I followed Anna Stockwell's no-recipe recipe for breaded chicken cutlets. Basically the routine is: take some thin chicken cutlets, coat them in crushed-up potato chips, and fry them in a shallow amount of oil. (Here, too, is where we depart from Grandma—she baked her chicken, of course. Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure she used reduced-salt chips, too.)
Start by either buying pre-pounded chicken cutlets or buying chicken breasts and pounding them with a meat mallet until they're a quarter of an inch thick or less. Then fill three wide, shallow bowls: one with all-purpose flour, one with a couple of beaten eggs, and one with the crushed-up potato chip of your choosing. I went to extremes last week and used a different chip for each cutlet: dill pickle, shrimp, Voodoo, salt and vinegar, and Kettle Chips' new Korean Barbecue. (Spoiler alert: these were all great but—sorry to keep banging on about this—I think the shrimp-chip chicken, whose crust had an alluring taste of umami, turned out to be my favorite.) Salt the naked chicken cutlets before you do anything. This is important: the chips themselves will not provide enough salt. Now dredge the cutlets through the flour, then the eggs, then the crushed-up chips.
And fry them. Heat a generously coated pan of neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed, over medium high, until the oil shimmers. Fry as many cutlets as you can fit into the pan without crowding. They don't take long: two or three minutes per side. Serve with an arugula salad. Or—I dunno—a side of potato chips? I don't see how it could possibly hurt.