I don't need millions- just give me all the milanese! To me, Chicken Milanese is the perfect meal: it's indulgent yet light, crisp and savory, satisfying to all, and easily adapted for every whim and season! Lately, I've been craving all things caprese, but caprese salad alone wasn't going to cut it for dinner the other night. So I took a cue from Melissa Clark at The New York Times, and topped a glorious crispy chicken cutlet with a caprese-esque salad... and IT WAS SO GOOD!
I begin by making this drinkable basil vinaigrette, which has pesto flavors in a silky smooth format (thanks to being prepped in a small blender). You will want to use a high quality extra virgin olive oil for the vinaigrette- I always choose my best when I know the oil won't be cooked and will play a starring role in the final dish. You can use your "b team" oil for frying the chicken cutlets later!
After the vinaigrette has been prepped, I add my caprese ingredients to a salad bowl. I think a mix of halved red and yellow cherry tomatoes look pretty here- try for some different sizes too for a rustic look and grab the best ones you can find. You can tear a large ball of fresh mozzarella into bite size pieces, or you can use those small mozzarella pearls instead. I did a mix since I had a little of both! These ingredients taste best after marinating for a bit at room temp in some of that delicious vinaigrette, giving you time to prep your chicken next.
You can buy thin cut chicken cutlets at most stores these days, but for this recipe I find it works best to pound out the cutlets on your own. The meat becomes more tender and you'll have a larger surface area on which to pile the caprese salad. I select smaller boneless skinless chicken breast halves, then place them flat in a ziplock bag on top of a cutting board (pad the board with a folded dish towel beneath to muffle the noise and reverberation). Next, take the smooth side of a meat cleaver or a rolling pin and pound the chicken out until each breast is an even 1/2" thickness from top to tail. Trim any ragged edges, season with salt and pepper and set them aside in the fridge and continue with breading. This step can be done up to 4 hours ahead, but the meal is best enjoyed directly after you have fried the cutlets until crisp and juicy!
prep time: ~30 min. cook time: ~15 min. serves: 4
4 small chicken breast halves (1-1/2 lbs total), pounded evenly 1/2” thick, trimmed of ragged edges
ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 lb fresh mozzarella, torn into bite size pieces (you can also use mozzarella pearls)
1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion or shallot
ground black pepper
3 oz mixed greens or arugula
1/2 cup packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp honey
1 tsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp lemon juice (~1 lemon)
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
Make the basil vinaigrette by placing all the ingredients into a small blender or food processor. Blend the mixture until vibrant green, smooth and fully pureed. Check for seasoning and set aside.
Place the tomatoes, mozzarella and red onion into the bottom of a salad bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and few cranks of pepper and toss with 3-4 tbsp of the prepared vinaigrette. Allow these ingredients to marinate at room temperature while you prepare the chicken.
Season the chicken cutlets all over with salt and pepper. Next, set up your breading station: place the flour on a large plate and whisk in 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Place the eggs in a baking dish or shallow bowl and beat them with 2 tbsp water to make an egg wash. Place the panko on another large plate and evenly mix in the parmigiano cheese. Start by laying each cutlet in the seasoned flour to coat on both sides, shaking off the excess. Next, coat the cutlet in the egg wash, allowing the excess to drip off before finally pressing the chicken into the panko mixture, making sure that the crumbs evenly adhere to the cutlet. Repeat with the remaining chicken cutlets and set aside on a baking dish (these may be breaded up to 4 hours ahead and left in the fridge to chill).
When you're ready to fry your chicken cutlets, pour 1/4 cup olive oil into a large cast iron pan or other large non stick skillet. Heat the oil over medium and once hot, lay 2 cutlets into the oil to fry. This should take about 3 minutes per side, or until the crust in golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the cooked pieces to a paper towel lined platter, sprinkle with a bit more kosher salt and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining cutlets, adding a splash more oil if needed.
To finish the meal, add the mixed greens to the bowl with the tomatoes and toss to coat- add a bit more vinaigrette if too dry and check for seasoning. To plate, place each crispy chicken milanese cutlet onto a dinner plate and pile each high with 4 portions of the salad. Garnish with a drizzle of vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper and serve while the chicken is hot!