One of the most difficult meats to cook, and the most disappointing when it’s on your plate, is chicken breast. And it’s all because this meat has virtually no fat — and that always means a serious lack of juiciness and an almost complete dearth of flavour.
Serious cooks, amateur and professional, avoid this meat at all times. But for those with only a superficial interest in what they’re cooking (some home cooks and many pros) chicken breast is considered a big deal — because it will always be tender.
The great majority of people, whether eating at home or in a restaurant, put tenderness above taste when eating meat. That’s why chicken breast, fillet steaks and pork fillets are such ubiquitous items on restaurant menus.
As soon as I see the words ‘pechuga de pollo’, and it doesn’t matter how the cook is doing these chicken breasts, my eyes go on to the next items on the list. ‘Steer clear of chicken breasts’ is a good mantra to keep in mind when looking down menus or shopping at the supermarket.
The word ‘escalope’, which you will see frequently on restaurant menus, should be a thin slice of veal that is breadcrumbed and fried in butter. But it is seldom like that.
Restaurant cooks are forever cutting corners and costs so they serve escalopes done with chicken breast instead of veal. That way they spend less (and that means more profit) and they also ensure the escalope will be tender. Almost certainly dry and tasteless, but tender.
Most restaurants serving chicken breast escalopes don’t actually tell you it’s chicken. They seem to think you’ll be more likely to order it if you think it’s done with veal, so they list it as a breaded escalope without naming the kind of meat.
But at today’s restaurant they did have it on the menu as chicken escalope but withheld the information that it is done with a boned thigh of chicken. The meat from the leg is always juicier and tastier than white meat — and that is, or should be, a big advantage. But the restaurant didn’t seem to think so and kept quiet about it.
The boned thigh meat is absolutely juicy and delish (I eat it frequently and get it from Mercadona) especially when done on a very hot plancha or frying pan for two minutes on the fleshy side and three on the skin side.
And it is ideal for coating with breadcrumbs because the rough surface of the boned thigh holds the crumbs beautifully.
The two pieces of thickish escalope came with rather flaccid french fries although a separate portion came straight from the deep-fryer and was excellent.
This restaurant is good value for money and some of the dishes are very good indeed. But a couple of things went wrong. It started with the glummest waiter I have ever come across. He didn’t smile once in the two hours we were there. No one got even a trace of a smile from him. The deep-fried food has always been good and we ordered a mixed ‘fritura’ to begin with. But it was all crunchy batter and very little succulence. Everything had been fried at a very high heat and for too long. I intended ordering other deep-fried dishes but didn’t. The breadcrumbed chicken was fine.
Meson Don Caracol, Avda Compte Sallent 6, Palma. Tel:971-758430. Open every day for lunch and dinner. They have a gigantic dining room at the back and there should be no need to reserve a table if you get there early. The air-conditioners are new and they work beautifully.
· Mixed fritura, €10.80
· Chicken escalope, €9.50
· French fries, €2.50
· 2 cañas, €3.60
· 2 Colas Zero, €4.60
Total cost with VAT: 31 euros.