Made with light, crustless Japanese-style pullman loaves, panko are a lighter, crispier version of the breadcrumbs we know. A must for dishes like tonkatsu (breaded and fried pork cutlet) or korokke (Japanese-style croquettes), they work equally well in any recipe that calls for breadcrumbs—often better than its Western counterparts. It'll keep your meatballs moist, your mac & cheese crusty, and your cod crisp like nothing else.
Breaded foods may not seem like typical summer fare, but I'd like to suggest a couple of lighter, snackier recipes to round out your 4th of July party. As a topping for grilled vegetables, breadcrumbs simply toasted with shallots add flavor and crunch without masking anything underneath—they go especially well with sweet and smoky asparagus in our recipe for Grilled Asparagus with Lemon and Breadcrumbs. A riff on traditional Japanese pork katsu, Fried Crispy Shrimp Skewers go equally well with a lemony mayo, or the sweet and hot fish sauce caramel we suggest.
Here are a few more suggestions for your 4th of July menu: