Monday, October 8, 2012

The Perfect Fall Picnic - Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Pesto and Red Peppers

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Fall is the most gorgeous time for a picnic, especially in the mountains. The leaves are changing colors painting a landscape of gold, red and orange. The air is perfect and cool enough to accommodate the bike ride or hike you took to get to the picnic spot, while the sun is still warm. Fall in Steamboat is nothing short of spectacular, but we're currently experiencing a cold front and with it brings a season ending freeze. Bummer. It's 36 degrees out right now! At least it's still bright and sunny...

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Just because we might have to stop picnic season short doesn't mean you have to. You probably still have another month or two of my favorite weather to picnic in while we make snow.

breading the chicken
Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

pan frying the chicken
Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

I like to bring traditional food to a picnic, nothing crazy, because picnics are simple, so the food should be too. My Grandma Grillo used to tell me that when her aunts packed a picnic in the 40's, it would be cold fried chicken and potato salad. That sounds fun, doesn't it? This chicken sandwich reminds me of that memory because it's fried chicken, but between bread. Pesto and red peppers punch up the flavor and fresh lemony arugula rounds everything out. You'll notice, there is no dairy or cheese on this sandwich and that's on purpose. When picnicking, try to avoid things that spoil easily. That's pretty much rule numero uno.

Start by picking a nice crusty baguette and spreading pesto along the bottom. Then, lay the fried chicken cutlets on top in a single layer cutting pieces to fit.

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Roasted red peppers on top of that

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Arugula lightly tossed in a little lemon, oilve oil, salt and pepper on top.

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Wrap sandwich in parchment or wax paper instead of ziplock bags. It's prettier. Just place the sandwich on the middle of a long sheet.

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Pick up the long sides and fold them together two to three times until it is tight around the sandwich.

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Then just tuck the other sides under and tape if needed.

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

Chicken cutlet Sandwich with red peppers and arugula

So, now that you have yourself one gorgeous sandwich, what else should you pack?

Fruit- something seasonal like a honeycrisp apple or crunchy green grapes
Chips- we like kettle cooked for extra crunch
Drink- iced tea in mason jars or bottled water
Desert: a freshly baked cookie wrapped in saran wrap

This is the sack lunch I dropped off to the awesome people I catered for last week. I hope they liked it.

Are you a vegetarian like me most of the time? No problem, just replace the chicken with some grilled eggplant.

Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Pesto and Roasted Red Peppers 
serves 3

For the sandwich:
1 french baguette, split lengthwise
Roasted red peppers, fresh or from a jar
3-4 cups lightly packed arugula
2 chicken cutlets, recipe below
Basil pesto, homemade or store bought
1/8 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Spread pesto generously on the bottom of the baguette. Lay the friend chicken cutlet pieces down, cutting to fit if needed. Spread a layer of roasted red pepper on top of the chicken. Toss the arugula in a bowl with just enough dressing to coat the leaves. Top the sandwich with arugula and sprinkle the whole sandwich with Kosher salt. Close sandwich and cut into three equal portions.

Parmesan Chicken Cutlets
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Family Style, by Ina Garten
makes 2 chicken breasts, enough for three sandwiches

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black ground pepper
2 large eggs
3/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4 inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (enough to lightly coat the bottom) in a large saute pan and cook both chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. When done, set cutlets on a plate and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Allow the breasts to cool enough so you can handle them before using.

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