As previously mentioned, John’s the shake n’ bake king in the Morrisong household. He doesn’t use the official product, just throws together some magical combination of bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, and dried spices. Usually, his shaking and baking is called upon when we have pork chops, but one of my favorite memories from when we were a budding, young college couple is when he first revealed this talent when we planned a picnic meal to take to an outdoor concert venue. We needed something that would be tasty at room temperature and portable, so he made breaded things– chicken fingers for him, eggplant for vegetarian (at the time) me.
Who doesn’t like something that’s breaded and crispy? I especially love fried zucchini, especially when it comes with a cool and tangy side of tzatziki sauce, but as much as I love fried things, I’m not a fan of home frying. It just seems like such a waste of oil, not to mention the thought of clean-up gives me a headache. So when I crave fried zucchini at home, I resort to the good old shake and bake.
But it’s taken me a few attempts to find a method that works for me. The first time, I used my favorite bread crumb– panko. Bad idea– the crumb’s large size, while amazing and crunchy when used on large surfaces, failed to adhere to the zucchini and what little bits that did manage to stick just got soggy in the egg wash. A recipe I once tried from a cooking magazine was a bit disappointing since the zucchini chips still baked up soggy.
So when thinking about how I wanted to do these chips, I knew that I had to resort to regular bread crumbs, the kind you keep in your pantry but forget that they’re there. I also thought about how I could remove some of the moisture from the zucchini in order to help with the crisping. Resorting to what I know from prepping eggplant for frying or shredded potatoes for pancakes, I tried lightly salting the slices of zucchini then letting them sit for a little bit. The salt drew out some of the moisture from the zucchini which I then dabbed off by setting the pieces on paper towels. I think that was the trick as these chips baked up crunchy while still retaining the slight sweetness of the squash. The crust, bread crumbs dressed up with red pepper flakes, plenty of Parmesan, garlic powder, and dried oregano was just spicy enough to keep things interesting. I served this as a side for hamburgers, but I bet these would be a great game day snack, especially if you bring out the tzatziki.
- 2 medium zucchini, cut crosswise, on a slight bias, to 1/4 inch thickness
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- salt and pepper
- cooking spray
Place the zucchini rounds in a single layer on a paper towel lined plate. Lightly sprinkle the zucchini with salt, probably no more than 3/4 tsp. Let this sit for about 20 minutes then dab the tops of the zucchini with paper towel to absorb moisture.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a wire rack on top of a foil lined baking sheet and lightly spray the rack with cooking spray. Set up your breading station as follows: on one plate, season the flour with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, mixing it well; next to it, have a shallow bowl with your beaten eggs; and in a second shallow dish, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan, garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Dip the zucchini rounds, a few at a time in the flour making sure to shake off extra flour. Follow this up by dipping the flour coated zucchini into the eggs then tossing them around in the bread crumb mixture. Line up the breaded zucchini on the wire rack.* Lightly spray the tops of the breaded zucchini with the cooking spray and bake for a total of 20-25 minutes, flipping them over half way through cooking time. Salt them when they are hot out of the oven if you want to, but I think the Parmesan takes care of any salt you may need while adding to the crunch.
*If you have time, the crust might adhere even better by chilling these in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking, but that’s just an educated guess.