Panko (Recipe: chicken fingers)
I'm the same age, give or take a couple of months, as Peeps and Swanson TV Dinners, but I'm forty years older than panko.
Neither a dance, nor an exercise regimen, nor very cool drum-beating music, panko are the Japanese bread crumbs that have taken Western cooking by storm over the past five years or so. More coarse than traditional dried bread crumbs, panko are really bread flakes; the flakes absorb less moisture and, therefore, food made with them stays more crisp.
There are two main types of panko: white and brown. The white is made from bread without the crusts, and the brown includes the whole loaf. Last time I shopped in my local Asian market, I found this honey panko, which is not really sweet but is definitely more flavorful. The bag says "A Good Bargain," and at just $1.59 for a 12-ounce bag, I have to agree.
Once you've opened the package, store unused panko in a ziploc bag, in the cupboard. Don't freeze panko, as it will absorb moisture and become a bit gloppy. If that does happen, use it in meatloaf, but not as a crust. When a recipe calls for panko, you can substitute cracker crumbs, which are lighter than traditional dried bread crumbs.
Panko makes a great addition to stuffed mushrooms and salmon cakes, or a crispy crust for soft-shell crabs, daikon cakes and mac-and-cheese.
P.S.: Last week I had a play date in my friend Bob's photography studio, which explains why my panko looks like a movie star today!
Just in time for the big football game (it's big, if you're from New England), here's an easy appetizer. Serves 4; can be doubled or tripled or more.
1-1/4 cup panko
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Few drops of Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste
Drop of agave nectar, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1-1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into 1-inch strips
Spicy ketchup or honey mustard (store-bought or homemade), for dipping
Preheat the broiler, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Place panko in a pie plate or other flat rimmed bowl. In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, hot sauce, agave nectar and black pepper, and stir. Dip the chicken strips into the mayonnaise mixture, and then roll them in the panko, pressing lightly to make sure the crumbs adhere. Place on the baking sheet, and cook under the broiler, turning once, for a total of 6-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the panko is browned. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Jennifer's Criminal Crab Cakes
Peppery egg noodles, farmer's cheese and cauliflower gratin
Turkey meatloaf with fig gravy
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I love how crunchy Panko makes everything. My husband(who is from the South) cringes when I make fried chicken with them. :)
I love panko, I rarely use regular bread crumbs anymore.
This looks wonderful! I think I'll make it some time this week.
Yet another thing that has been on my to-try list for ever! I love the idea of making a crispy crust for casseroles...mmm...
I love the lively crunch of panko - it's fun to use it in traditional recipes and see what kind of extra kick you end up with. And, yes, your bag of panko looks like a superstar!
It's nice to know I am a couple of years younger than tv dinners!
Sounds delicious. I love panko, and you can even get 100% whole wheat panko crumbs at Wild Oats here.
Peabody, isn't fried chicken with panko great? Your Southern husband will learn to love it.
Rachel, same here.
Jen, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Hope you enjoy this recipe -- it's so simple, but really good nibble food.
Nupur, panko makes a great crust -- not quite as clumpy as regular dry bread crumbs. Try it!
TW, I use panko for most everything now, too. Really lightens up things like crab cakes.
Pam, welcome! I didn't know until recently that TV dinners and I were born in the same year, but it explains why I always thought they were such a cool treat when I was a kid.
Kalyn, I'll have to look for the whole wheat panko around here (maybe at Whole Foods?). Is it as light in taste and texture as the regular panko?
Usually I just see the white version. My fav is from TJs!
I recently used Panko on pork katsudon. I did not know there were two types of panko!
I use Panko bread crumbs a good bit, I find they just sort of dissappear after they absorb some liquid- Unlike traditional bread crumbs, specially when making crab cakes. I haven't tried the honey variety, but after your reccomendation will give them a try soon. The photo sure looks good- I hope you had fun on your playdate! :)
Tigerfish, thank goodness for Trader Joe's -- they have so many great products. I wish I lived closer; the nearest one is an hour and a half away.
Veron, this is the first time I've tried honey panko, and Kalyn (see above) has found some whole wheat that I'm anxious to try, too.
Katia, my play date was a hoot -- I have more photos that I took that day, so watch this site for a few more movie stars!
I love panko, too, but don't use them nearly enough. I usually use it on Asian-styled foods (in place of breading something with flour or something else I'd be more accustomed to) or fish. I never would have thought of chicken fingers, but that sounds like it would be the perfect crust.
Mike, you'd really like panko as a topping on mac and cheese, too -- or any gratin. Give it a try!
I want some of those chicken fingers for lunch, please. ;)
I love panko! I hardly ever use regular bread crumbs, unless I have stale bread. I've used several different brands of panko and I like this honey version one best as well. It definitely tastes better. My husband loves it when I make chicken or beef katsu with it. I've made something similar to your chicken fingers too. Great minds think alike. ;) I couldn't find it near where I live so I had my mom bring me two big bags from LA when she visited for Christmas. :)
Stacey, once I started using panko, it was hard to think of recipes using regular bread crumbs -- the panko is so much lighter. I'm going to try some beef katsu, too -- I've never made it. Yes, great minds think alike!
I've never seen panko breadcrumbs for sale in England. They probably sell it at the Japanese Centre in London or the big Asian supermarket that's not too far away.
Amanda, I'm sure the Asian markets will have panko, but there are also great online sources now, too. And then there are blogging friends who will happily send you some (hint, hint: send me an email)!
I'm still a child at heart who loves her chicken fingers! Maybe I'll try making them myself one day.
Hillary, with the Super Bowl coming up, maybe this is the time to try chicken fingers! And really, none of us ever outgrow them -- they are the ultimate comfort food.
Hi Lydia, I really enjoy reading your blog!
I've gotta comment since it's about a Japanese item!
Amanda, I also live in London, & you can get panko in Atari-ya, Arigato, Japan Centre, Oriental City, TK Trading, Rice Wine, Fuji Foods, & just like Lydia said, I'm sure in China town too!
Tamami, thank you so much! Now if only you could teach me to bake -- I love seeing all the treats you sell at your market stand.
These are always a hit in my house! They have quickly become a favorite. I love how easy the meal is to prepare. I pair the chicken with baked sliced potatoes and steamed veggies. Tonight, my preschooler asked me to cook some more when all the fingers were eaten!