Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes: Gail Simmons’ Za’atar Chicken Schnitzel

The lifecycle of a Plated recipe—from our Test Kitchen to your home kitchen—tends to follow the same path, always with a few delicious surprises along the way. As you might imagine, it’s an incredibly creative and collaborative process. Our recipes are often inspired by the Culinary team’s monthly restaurant field trips, including the gooey Cauliflower Carbonara we recently sampled at an Italian restaurant. Other times, as was the case for our Curried Salmon Burgers, we want to revamp our own personal favorites that we’re dying to share.

When Gail Simmons signed on to work with Plated, we knew we were in for something special. Her experience with food, cooking, and writing is beyond extensive, and she also just released an exciting new cookbook, Bringing It Home. Immediately, we knew we had to dig into her recipes and adapt one for our Plated customers. Working together with Gail, we landed on the perfect recipe. We think you’re gonna love it.

Here’s a deep dive behind our Za’atar Chicken Schnitzel with Israeli Salad, shipping in boxes starting on November 12th.

The Inspiration

When the Culinary Team received Gail’s cookbook, we devoured it. Actually. With so many recipes to choose from, we first had to narrow things down to determine the best option for Plated customers: certain number of ingredients, time to cook, skill level required, deliciousness, etc. After testing four (yes, four) recipes, from spaghetti pie to shrimp rolls, we landed on our absolute favorite, the Za’atar Chicken Schnitzel with Israeli Salad. With its crispy outer layer, a fresh salad, and the use of za’atar, we felt this hit all the marks: familiar with an unfamiliar twist. And, it definitely doesn’t lack in savory, fresh flavor.

Naturally, we went to Gail to learn more about said schnitzel. When she was 18, Gail spent a memorable summer on a Kibbutz (an agricultural community) in Israel. After a month on the chicken farm, she moved to the kitchen, and then…she never left. It was in that very kitchen that she learned about za’atar and schnitzel, both very typical and traditional things to eat in the area. Of course, she couldn’t forget about the crunchy Israeli salad served alongside every meal. The recipe channels Gail’s personal memories by combining a simple breaded chicken with a hit of flavorful, Middle Eastern za’atar and a fresh, colorful Israeli salad. As it turns out, Gail is just as passionate as we are about recreating incredible dishes enjoyed abroad (or at restaurants, takeout, or across the street), and bringing it all back home.

Putting it Together

First, we prepared the recipe exactly as Gail wrote it. The kick of za’atar was so good, we just had to add more. Fragrant, tangy, and nutty, we thought Plated customers would just flip for its strong flavor. Next, we swapped grape tomatoes for cherry because we like to stay as seasonal as possible in the Plated Test Kitchen. Lastly, Gail’s salad called for both parsley and mint, both of which are known to have polarizing, overpowering flavor, so that required a bit of tinkering, testing, and tasting before finding the right balance. Chicken is pounded, breaded, and pan-fried, schnitzel style, seasoning the breadcrumbs with tons of za’atar spice blend. Cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, and onion come together for the ideal salad. And…that’s it! Told ya the changes were minimal.

Simply re-ordering the steps and buying the right cut of veggies brought this recipe full circle. And, for a final touch, we invited Gail back into our kitchen to make sure we stayed true to her vision. With her gracious nod of approval and a sprinkle of a salt and pepper, the recipe was officially ready to hit Plated menus. This was the very first recipe Gail tested for her cookbook; how about being among the first to bring it home?

PS. Curious to know even more about Gail? You’re in luck.

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