Photos by Molly Yeh
I love a good fried chicken. I love schnitzel, I love katsu, I love anything fatty and breaded and crispy. If my Valentine presented me with a heart-shaped schnitzel on the 14th, I think I’d propose right then and there.
The problem is, I also love feeling good and fitting into the cute Valentine’s Day outfit that I’ve had picked out for weeks. In other words, I want my Valentine’s Day dinner to be as yummy as a schnitzel but much healthier than one.
Oven frying (baking a breaded cutlet, rather than deep frying it) is an obvious answer but I’ve never been a fan of it. With the fake fried food experience, I feel sad and cheated, and cheated is the last thing anyone wants to feel on Valentine’s Day. So… Za’atar to the rescue! It’s one of my favorite spice blends and I am a firm believer that za’atar, like chocolate, can make anything better.
Let’s also not forget that Valentine’s day falls on Shabbat this year. The amazing earthy flavor of za’atar with the crunchiness of panko on this chicken is a beautiful thing, and it is bound please a crowd for your Friday night dinner or a special date without an overwhelming amount of prep. This dish will leave you feeling great, and you may even gain a whole new respect for oven fried chicken like I did. It’s breaded without being heavy or oily and it’s paired with a sweet balsamic date chutney, to add a little extra sweetness to your night.
6 tablespoons za’atar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
For the chutney:
1/2 cup packed pitted dates
1/2 small onion
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
a pinch of salt
1) Make the marinade by combining 2 tablespoons of za’atar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the mustard, and the lemon juice. Coat the chicken with the marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2) While the chicken is marinating, make the chutney by finely chopping the dates and onion and combining them with the balsamic vinegar, honey, and salt. Set aside until the chicken is ready to be served.
3) When the chicken is done marinating, preheat the oven to 400ºf. Spray an oven frying rack and place it over a baking sheet. If you don’t have an oven frying rack, a basic metal cooling rack will work. In a shallow dish, toss the Panko bread crumbs with remaining 4 tablespoons of za’atar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
4) Use a paper towel to pat off the marinade from the chicken. Coat the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture and place on the rack. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the breading starts to brown.
5) Serve with the chutney and enjoy!