Monday, April 14, 2014

A Family Treasure--Chicken Crumb Chops

Every family has one meal which is etched into the family table. In our house it is undoubtedly crumb chops. Whether it's a birthday, a red letter day or a just because moment, crumb chops rein supreme. Though quite often I make chops when it's time for one of us to leave or return home. A celebratory and leave-taking meal that has connotations of love, loss and all that's in between. 

I first had chops at my mother-in-law Pam's table in Bombay. Glenn was off to London and I was invited for dinner, fussed over and given the most tender chop! Indian beef isn't quite known for its texture. Enormous slices of undercut or tenderloin, were pounded and hammered, marinated, crumbed and fried. A huge mounded platter came to table, along with riced potatoes and sautéed cabbage. Within seconds, the hands of five famished boys reached for tender fat slices, leaving Pam using her fork to find the perfect portion for one timid girlfriend! And this story played out for many years as Glenn went back and forth to the UK for many years.

We get married and leave for foreign lands. I ask Pam for the chop recipe but I am fobbed off. I guess I needed to earn my stripes!!!  Not having the heirloom, I had managed to unearth one pretty similar... Or so I thought! A tiny Goan cookbook by Jennifer Fernandes, who turned out to be my sister in law Carla's aunt!! Eventually Pam saw me for the jewel I am and parted her treasured recipe!!!! Which was nothing like the one I had mastered#%*.

Fast forward to several years down the road. Shauna enrolls at UNC. Departures and arrivals are scheduled along with crumb chops, potatoes and peas. Yes, the menu changes a bit along with the venue. Rehan goes off too and we are still painting the same picture! 

Crumb chops are inherently popular in most Goan homes. Some use green masala, others use soy sauce marinades. Potatoes almost always accompany these stalwarts. My riced versions have fooled many diners into thinking they were helping themselves to a rice pilaf! These days Pam serves crumb chops with a masala potato bhaji. Hey.. Go with the times or your palette. Just make these chops and watch them disappear.

Chicken Crumb Chops
Serves 4

12-14 Chicken tenders
2 Green Chilies (Serranos or Jalapeños)
1/2 cup Cilantro
5 Garlic pods
1 tablespoon fresh Ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
3 tablespoons Soy sauce
3 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Canola oil
3-4 tablespoons Canola oil for frying
1 Egg
1 1/2- 2 cups Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs

Wash and dry chicken tenders. Place in a glass container.

Grind chilies, cilantro, garlic, ginger, black pepper, soy sauce, vinegar and oil in blender till smooth and creamy. 

Pour marinade over chicken and stir well so the chicken is covered. Refrigerate chicken 
for 3 to 4 hours. You can keep the chicken overnight for optimum flavor.

Bring chicken to room temperature before breading.

Break egg into a shallow bowl and whisk well.

Spread a cup of breadcrumbs onto a cutting board or plate.

Dip chicken tender into egg and then place in crumbs. Pat crumbs firmly so that they adhere to chicken. Finish breading all the tenders before you fry them.

Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a nonstick saucepan.

Add chicken when the oil is hot, frying one side till golden brown. Flip chicken and brown the other side. This should take 5 minutes. Add more oil as you fry.

Serve crumb chops with riced potatoes (or cooked any way you please) and peas.

It's one of those just because days. Chops spit and sizzle in the kitchen, emerging crisp brown and slightly wrinkly. The enticing aroma of fried crumb chops elicit oohs and aahs, hugs and kisses. We tuck into them gladly. Then I think of my absentee daughter and I fork one sadly.