For those who attended the wedding, I hope they remember the elegant, five-course meal filled with Ligurian specialties. Perfectly-portioned plates designed to satiate your palate yet leave you feeling light enough to hit the dance floor and celebrate. Ahh, nice memories…
Well, outside of Italy, I am apparently not alone in my love for Italian food. In fact, did you know that Italian restaurants constitute the largest percentage of all restaurants in the US?
Yes, Americans love Italian food. And so do Chefs… Thanks to low food costs and relatively quick-cooking recipes, Italian food is a smart choice for aspiring restaurateurs.
With that said, I find that great Italian food is quite hard to find in the US. For me, the true tests of an Italian restaurant’s worth are:
- Is the pasta served “al dente”? Literally meaning “to the tooth”, this term describes pasta that has been cooked long enough to remove its raw flour taste but not long enough to make it mushy. When you bite into it, “al dente” pasta is still firm enough to provide resistance but definitely not hard.
- Does their pomodoro sauce still taste like real tomatoes? If so, I know they started with great tomatoes and masterfully did very little to enhance them. Too often, I encounter sauces that are masked by so many other flavors that the tomato essence is lost.
Aside from pasta, I am also a sucker for a great Milanese. These pounded, breaded and pan-fried chicken (or veal) cutlets are the ultimate comfort food. Particularly delicious when accompanied by a salad of tomato and basil with a squeeze of lemon juice, their crispy texture is offset by the acidity of the salad to create a light-feeling entrée.
If you feel like avoiding the mark-up and saving your pennies, try experimenting at home with my recipe.
MAKE YOUR OWN RECIPE
Using this recipe as background on the ingredients and techniques, how might you make your own recipe? How about you:
Vary the meat?
- Veal and pork are the most popular variations
- Herbs such as basil and thyme would be nice additions to the egg mixture
Mix up your coating?
- Instead of breadcrumbs, try using crushed pretzels, nuts or even cornflakes
Diversify the flavors?
- For Chicken Parm, coat with tomato sauce and mozzarella and bake till golden brown
- For Bavarian Schnitzel, use veal, omit the cheese and serve with Kartoffelsalat (German potato salad)
- For Cuban Pollo Empanizado, marinate in a Mojo (marinade consisting of garlic, onions, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and citrus)
- For Chicken Cordon Bleu, stuff the cutlets with gruyere and ham before frying
You get the idea… Now, please share your recipes!
CHICKEN ALLA MILANESE
• 2 – Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1 cup – Flour
• 1 – Egg
• 1 tsp – Parsley, chopped
• 1 cup – Panko breadcrumbs
• 1/3 cup – Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
• 1/3 cup – Olive oil
• 1 tbsp – Butter
1. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
2. Place each chicken breast on a Saran-wrapped cutting board and hold it down with your non-cutting hand
3. Using a very sharp knife, slice into the thickest part of the breast – do not slice in two pieces, simply slice far enough to open up the breast like a book
4. Lay chicken flat and cover with Saran wrap
5. Using a mallet or heavy pan, pound the chicken and even out its thickness
6. Separately, prepare three wide, shallow bowls. In the first bowl, place your flour. In the second bowl, add your egg (beaten) and parsley. In the third, combine your panko with the cheese.
7. Season the chicken and all three bowls with salt and pepper (to taste)
8. Place both sides of the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess
9. Place the chicken in the egg mixture and then lift it out and allow excess to drip off
10. Coat the chicken in the bread crumb mixture
11. If time allows, store the chicken in the fridge, uncovered, for approximately 20 minutes to allow the breading to set
12. Heat the oil and butter in a heavy skillet on medium-high heat
13. Test the oil’s heat by sprinkling a drop of water – if it sizzles, it’s ready
14. Place the chicken breasts in the skillet and allow them to cook for a few minutes until the breading is golden brown. Flip and repeat on the other side.
15. Using your thermometer, ensure that the chicken has reached 165° and then place on a rack to drain off excess oil
16. Serve with a squeeze of lemon