After years of alternating between stale bread crumbs, Italian bread crumbs, various kinds of crushed crackers (mostly saltines) and God knows what else for the various dishes that require “breading,” the word “Panko” started to impinge on my consciousness. First I saw it in food journalism, then started seeing it in the grocery store in the “oriental” section, now it seems to have migrated into the “yeah, we all eatin’ this now” section.
I pretty much had the whole breading thing figured out. This for this, that for that. Then I finally tried Panko, and reactionary that I am, I had to grudingly admit that Panko was better. And not just somewhat better. Infinitely better. And with almost every recipe in which I’d ever used other forms of breading. It’s because it’s, how can I put this, fluffier, which translates into crispier. It has all the volume of homemade bread crumbs without the messy food processor blenderizing and attendant crumb eddies that accumulate in the corners of your kitchen floor when you make bread crumb breading. Hell, it even comes in a shaker jar. The worst thing you can say about it is that eventually it runs out and you have to buy more.
I still use Italian bread crumbs for fried eggplant (much better than cornmeal which is like biting into road gravel – shoot me for saying that, but it’s true) and I don’t fry okra in it, but everything else is a go. Paneed veal, check, chicken cutlets, check, topping for squash casserole, check.
The only variation on this simple culinary revelation is pictured here. Years ago when I ran low on bread crumbs for some veal cutlets, I bulked up the breading with an expired package of plain instant mashed potatoes. And guess what? It was great! Lends a potato chippy vibe to whatever it surrounds.
So although I’m not extremely high on convenience foods (mostly because they don’t taste all that great and aren’t all that convenient) I can 5 star the Panko/instant mash combination all the way. Try it, you’ll see.