This breaded chicken (Japanese style) is one of my favorite meals to make. It’s simple and easy and doesn’t require much in the way of technique and expertise. Because each piece of chicken must be individually breaded, it requires focus, the same kind of focus that working on an assembly line might require and it takes a long time to make.
Every single member of our family loves this meal. In the evenings, before the pandemic, they used to all hang out with their dad (who they hadn’t seen all day) in the basement, and Eric later told me that when they heard the “bang! bang!” sound of me using the meat tenderizer to flatten out the chicken breasts, they knew that this meant of one of their favorite meals would be on the table. Knowing that my family will enjoy the meal means it is satisfying to make but there’s more to it than that.
The best part of preparing this meal is that I’ve done it enough times at this point that I feel competent. Competency feels good. I can slice chicken breasts super thin. I’ve figured out how best to control the salt distribution. I’ve figured out how to keep one hand the raw chicken contaminated one and one not so that I don’t have to wash my hands every other step. I know which tools in my kitchen work best for each step (I line my colander with paper towels so that the oil can drain off vertically placed pieces of chicken rather than flat on a plate where only one side drains). Once, I made the panko bread crumbs from scratch using a homemade loaf of bread. I probably won’t do that again. But I’ve done it and know that on the off chance I can’t get premade breadcrumbs, I can make them myself.
As much as I love trying and doing new things in the kitchen, I think I love more the feeling of: I’ve been doing some things for long enough that my fall-backs produce something consistently tasty and satisfying. And that feels good too.