Cotolette di pollo

As much as I like to cook, I can't imagine it was easy for my mom to cook dinner for a family of 5 (almost) every. single. night. This, especially when she was cooking for 4 other people, 7 days a week, any one of which maybe didn't feel like eating hamburgers that night, or who wanted to order pizza but instead got stuck eating roast chicken, or who declared that actually, they didn't like gorgonzola cheese and therefore that gorgonzola and walnut pasta she had made was out of the question (guilty as charged -- I still don't like gorgonzola). I remember my mom constantly rifling through cookbooks and magazines in search of new recipes (this was before the era of smartphones and laptops) subsequently dishing up everything from chicken stir fry, tacos, sweet potato, pepper, and beef stew, and baked stuffed shrimp, accompanied by the sentence (and a hint of desperation) "I decided to try something new for dinner, let me know if you like it!" In hindsight, we were pretty spoiled -- I was shocked when I discovered that some of my friends' mothers didn't cook, serving up pasta with sauce from a jar, Stouffers brand lasagne, and lots of take out. "Oh, my mom doesn't like to cook," my friend Ashley told me. "She never has. Yours cooks?" Also shocking was the revelation that some other mothers didn't bake -- mine, on the other hand, whipped up blondies, carrot cake, and shortbread cookies for my lunchbox and school bake sales. 

But I digress! My mom had a series of  go-to, complaint-proof recipes in her repertoire, dishes that we almost never whined about and we were (nearly) always happy to eat. Breakfast-for-supper (there was something magical about eating pancakes for dinner), ragรน alla bolognese, and chicken pot pie all fell in to this category, as did the star of today's post, cotolette, better known as cutlets in English. Cotolette are common in Italy, a quick, homey secondo that can be made with chicken, pork, veal, or even turkey. In Milan in particular, the common cutlet is elevated, known as cotolette alla milanese, or rather, over-sized veal cutlets pounded thin and then breaded, fried, and served with lemon wedges alongside. In East Greenwich, Rhode Island, they were chicken cutlets, usually eaten with a side of rice or pasta or whatever my mom had on hand, a dish that was both quick and crowd pleasing, and thus a win-win dinner for all involved. We were never disappointed when we came home to my mom frying up a batch of these, and to this day I still find them to be a cozy, nostalgic sort of dish.

This is my rendition of the cotolette my mom would make us, the only difference being that the bread crumbs I use here are plain (I've never seen the seasoned ones my mom in Italy) with the addition of a good dose of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (always, always a good idea). The resulting cotolette are incredibly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, with a little salty kick from the Parmesan, perfect served with a side of roast potatoes on the top and a squeeze of lemon over the top. Not to sound repetitive here, but: I can't emphasize enough how incredibly easy and ridiculously quick they are to make (they weren't my mom's go-to dish for nothing,) requiring only a few ingredients you probably already have on hand. Make these and you, too, can solve your weeknight dinner dilemmas.

A couple of notes: Feel free to add dried herbs to the breadcrumb mixture; thyme, oregano, basil, or a mixture of those would be good. These can be made gluten-free with the use of gluten-free breadcrumbs. You might also be able to substitute Pecorino for the Parmesan, if you'd like (I'll be trying this out soon). You could probably also make these with chicken tenders to make a fancy chicken finger or chicken nugget (nostalgia!) Excuse the gray, dark photos here -- these were made and photographed on a rainy Roman afternoon!

Looking for other secondi, or dishes made with meat or fish? Here are a few: Pollo alla cacciatora in bianco, this Mustard and Rosemary Glazed Salmon, this Polpettone, this Swordfish with Tomatoes, Raisins, and Olives, this Salmon with Strawberry and Avocado Salsa, and these Meatballs.

COTOLETTE DI POLLO

Ingredients:
8 veal, pork, or chicken cutlets 
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/4 cups (200 grams) bread crumbs
3/4 cup (80 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper
Olive oil or vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:
Beat together the egg and milk in a shallow dish (it needs to be shallow so you can easily dip your chicken cutlets in). 
In another dish, mix together the breadcrumbs, pepper, a good pinch of salt, and the Parmesan. Take a piece of chicken, dip it in the egg mixture, and then coat it in the breadcrumb mixture. Place the chicken pieces on a plate as you finish with the rest.
Over medium heat, heat enough oil to generally coat the bottom of a large skillet. Fry max two cutlets at a time to not lower the temperature of the oil too much (I have a small skillet so I fried mine one at a time). Turn the cutlets until they are golden brown on both sides. Place them on a plate lined with wax paper (or, as my mom did, paper towels) to soak up an excess oil. 
Sprinkle the chicken with a little extra salt and a few squeezes of lemon juice and eat while still hot, with a few lemon wedges and your vegetable or starch of choice on the side. Serves 4.




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