Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb that's gained a well-deserved reputation with Western cooks. Coarsely ground with a shard-like structure, panko resists compression, giving fried foods a crunchy, airy crust. Panko browns beautifully, but absorbs less grease than conventional breadings, and resists becoming leaden or soggy.
The Japanese first learned to make bread from the Portuguese; the word "panko" is derived from pan (Portuguese for "bread") and ko, Japanese for "crumb" or "powder." Panko-fried foods stay crisp when cooled.
Panko makes an outstanding breading for shrimp or fish, where its lightness rivals that of tempura. But it's quickly becoming an all-purpose favorite, used as a binder in crab cakes and meatloaf, and as a crunchy topping for casseroles.
Generally made from crust-less white bread, panko is pale in color and relatively tasteless. But its blandness is seen as a virtue, since its composition allows it to readily absorb added seasonings. Try blending panko with lemon zest and chopped fresh dill as a breading for fish fillets. Many recipes use a three-stage breading process -- lightly dusting meat in flour, dipping in egg wash, and finishing with panko, pressing to coat. Another tip: Panko may adhere best when allowed to set up briefly in the refrigerator.
> Red Snapper with Mango Salsa
1 lime, juice and finely grated rind
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large ripe mangoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 small jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
4 (6-ounce) fresh red snapper fillets (or other firm white fish)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces macadamia nuts
3/4 cup panko crumbs
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
To prepare salsa, combine lime juice, rind, pineapple juice and oil in a medium bowl; whisk. Add remaining salsa ingredients; stir well. Set aside.
To prepare fish, sprinkle fillets with salt. Place macadamia nuts and panko in the bowl of a food processor; process until nuts are finely ground. Place mixture in a shallow dish. Place eggs and water in a shallow bowl; whisk well. Sprinkle flour over a sheet of wax paper. Dredge fish in flour; dip in egg mixture; dredge in macadamia mixture, pressing gently to make crumbs adhere.
Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish; reduce heat to medium, and cook about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve with salsa. Serves 4.
(Recipe by Greg Patent.)
Per serving: 620 calories, 27g fat, 44g prot., 49g carbs., 4g fiber, 900mg sodium.