I know we’re all in end-of-summer mode, but for a minute I need to take you back to an early June day, specifically Father’s Day, which up here in the Northeast was a stunner of a Sunday. Clear skies, low 70s, light breeze. Andy was out running errands when the girls and I took stock of the gift loot — a few homemade cards, an iced coffee, uh, not much more than that — and decided we probably needed to up our game a bit in appreciation for the lone man of the house, maybe the only male in the world who knows all the words to The Cup Song.
As usual, Abby came up with the plan. “We’ll have a picnic at the Waterfront park and we’ll get chicken cutlet sandwiches from Scappy’s.”
Scappy’s is a nickname for the local Italian deli — the place where the guys behind the counter say “proszhoo” and “mooz-a-rell,” the place where a dozen construction trucks and vans are jamming up the sidewalks outside, where men in paint-splattered cargo pants walk out with sandwiches the size of their forearms. Inside, on a dry-erase board near the Wise potato chips display, their “famous chicken cutlet sandwich” is touted. “See?” said Abby. “He’ll love them.” She had recently been granted the right to walk into town with friends and without a parent. It appeared a lot of those walks had come right through this deli.
We piled our loot into the trunk on top of the picnic blankets and texted Andy: Meet us at the park!
He did. And as I said, the day was a beaut. The park, right on the Hudson River, had recently re-opened after a two-year renovation, and everyone was out enjoying it — enjoying that feeling when you know you have the whole summer stretched out before you. Wow, did those sandwiches taste good.
Contrary to what you’re probably thinking right now, I’m not trying to depress all of us.
All I want to say is that ever since that afternoon, we’ve been obsessing over the chicken cutlet sandwich — ordering it at Scappy’s, but also at random pizzerias around the county, at our new favorite restaurant in Charleston, and even in our own house. Last week we made them on the night before the first day of school — not because I was trying to one-up Scappy. I think I was just trying to re-capture that June afternoon and everything that came with it. Cause if I can’t have summer, I can at least have the sandwich.
Chicken Cutlet Sandwiches, Italian Deli Style
Few generous glugs of olive oil (5 to 6 tablespoons), more as necessary (you are not deep-frying here, but pretty close)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs or Corn Flake Crumbs that have been salted and peppered
4 boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds), rinsed and patted dry and pounded like crazy (if some of the breasts flatten out dramatically, slice them into two pieces)
mayo to taste
6 potato rolls, such as Martin’s
thinly sliced tomatoes
- Add the oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat.
- Set up your dredging stations: one rimmed plate for the eggs, one plate for the flour, and one plate for the bread crumbs. Using a fork, coat your chicken pieces first in the flour (shaking off any excess), then in the egg, then in the crumbs, pressing the chicken into the crumbs to thoroughly coat.
- Fry each breast in the oil for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. The cutlets are cooked when chicken is firm to the touch but not rock hard.
- Remove and drain the chicken onto a paper-towel-lined dinner plate. Add more oil to the pan and repeat the process with the remaining breasts.
- Spread mayo on potato rolls and top with chicken cutlets (you might have to halve or trim the cutlets to fit), lettuce, and tomato.
P.S. Remember this Back-to-School Weekly Menu Plan I drew up for you guys two years ago? I’m following it to a tee this week. It’s better than I remember.
P.P.S. Remember the lunch contract? (That was five years ago! Holy moly!)