I have always been confused as to the difference between the Italian ‘Cotoletta alla Milanese’ ,the German ’Schnitzel’ , the french ‘ Escalope’ and their various brothers and sisters from all around the world. After quite a bit of research I have to say I am not much closer to knowing. The common theme is really a piece of meat (usually tenderised), dipped in egg, (sometimes flour), breadcrumbs and then fried.
Now what I do I know is that a ‘Weiner Schnitzel’ has to be made with Veal and is regionally protected by Austria and Germany. Both this and the ‘Escalope’ are boneless pieces of tenderised meat. The Italian ‘Cotoletta alla Milanese’ traditionally is a piece if Veal with the bone in and cooked in clarified butter. Along the way there have been variations and seasonings that can be added into the breadcrumbs or the cooking oil. They can also be cooked with pork, chicken, turkey or beef. Other than that, I would say they are all pretty similar and I tend to just call it “Breaded” as I would hate to offend anybody who felt strongly about the specifications and origins of what I had cooked.
So here is my version of a non-specific “ Breaded Chicken” …other meats are available!!
Boneless Chicken Fillets – 2 lovely plump ones
Breadcrumbs – 75 – 100g (enough to coat your two fillets, see tips on how to make your own)
Egg – 1 large, whisked
Plain Flour – 50g (You won’t need much, just enough the cover the two fillets lightly)
Salt and Pepper to season
Lemon wedges to serve
Olive oil – A good few glugs
Butter – A large knob
Firstly you want to slice horizontally into your chicken breast, but not all the way through. Lay your chicken breast on to a chopping board, place hand flat on top and gently saw through lengthwise towards the thicker side of the breast. Saw away from yourself and your hand, stopping just 1 cm from the other side. Now, open it out flat like a butterfly onto your chopping board. Repeat this with the other breast and lay both flat on the board with a piece of clingfilm or parchment paper placed on top. Now the fun part! Take a sturdy flat bottomed pan or a rolling pin and bang the pieces of meat to flatten them and tenderise them. Just be careful, don’t go all Jackie Chan on that chicken and pulverise it, you want them to stay as one whole.
Now you want to prepare your ‘Dipping station’. This is the kind of organisation that anyone who likes systems and order, will be right up your street. Use whatever you have really, but you need four plates or baking trays. You want to place your flour on the first plate, egg on the second and breadcrumbs on the third, seasoning each. Dip your chicken into the flour, lightly covering both sides. Then dip your breast into the egg on both sides and let the excess drip off. Lastly, lay your chicken into the breadcrumbs and press the breast gently, flip over and coat the other side making sure they are coated evenly all over. Lay it onto the fourth plate/ tray lined with parchment and repeat with your other chicken breast.
Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan. You need enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan with about 1cm depth so that when you lay your chicken in the pan, the bottom half is covered. When the oil is hot enough and bubbling a little, turn the heat down to medium and lay your chicken breasts into the pan. You will need to cook the meat about 6 minutes each side, until the breadcrumbs are a deep golden colour. Once cooked, lay the chicken onto some kitchen paper to soak up the excess oil and serve with a big wedge of lemon.
I have served it with some new potatoes and a dressed salad but this can be eaten on top of pasta, in a Ciabatta or just on its own which I love, even cold is delicious!
– Make your own breadcrumbs: If you ever find yourself with stale bread, just place it in a food processor and blitz until crumbs form. Place these on a tray in the oven at about 160c to dry out and colour a little but this won’t take long. These will keep in a sealed container for at least a week.
– Panko breadcrumbs – I love these and use them quite often. They are used in Japanese cooking for Chicken Katsu, which is just really another variety of this dish.
– Once you’ve breaded the chicken, leaving it in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour will make it crispier when you cook it, but it is not vital if you don’t have time. You can also make it in advance and keep it wrapped in the fridge for a day.
– Make sure your oil is hot enough for a nice little sizzle but not so hot it burns your meat, if it starts to get too hot, throw a knob of butter in to cool the oil a little.
– If you are increasing this recipe, you will perhaps have to cook the chicken in batches which is fine. Just pop your cooked chicken pieces on a tray in a warm oven and cover with foil, whilst you cook the rest.