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Chicken Cutlets from My Childhood

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I am sure that most Italian-Americans have their own recipe for this dish, but the ones my grandmother and mother made were the best by far!

Cutlets were a special treat in my household. My father would come down in the middle of the night and eat them cold from the fridge, much to our despair because that meant less (or none) for us the next day. The lemon we used came from a squirting glass bottle filled with fake lemon juice. But to this day that sour, lemony substitute is something I have fond memories of.

In order for this dish to really take on a special texture the cutlets need to be very thin. I usually take whole chicken breasts, cut them half, and pound out each side until they are nearly double in diameter. This gives the finished product a much better flavor as the chicken and coating get equal, delicious billing.

This recipe is my version, based on alot of experimentation. I use panko bread crumbs for the coating. The finished product is much more crispy than the seasoned breadcrumb from the can that my mother and grandmother used. It is addicting. It is a favorite in my family, something we know the kids are guaranteed to eat. We always serve it with roasted asparagus. I don’t know why, but that is how it is done in the Della Vecchia household.

One last item: try taking some extra left over panko and adding some of the egg mixture until a little patty can be formed. Fry the patties after the cutlets and enjoy.

Ingredients
(makes enough for 4 people – double the recipe for great leftovers)

4 large chicken breast, cut in half evenly and pounded thin
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 lemons
1/2 cup fresh parsley
grated pecorino cheese
salt
cracked black pepper
Seasoned, dry panko bread crumbs (the best quality you can buy)
Oil for frying

  1. Beat the eggs and add the milk. Chop the parley and add to mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Grate the zest of one lemon and add. Add the cutlets to the egg mixture.
  2. Pour a generous amount of panko in a plate. Grate enough pecorino over the panko as you like (taste the panko for salt levels first, but I use a lot). Zest the other lemon and add to crumbs. Season with cracked black pepper to taste. Mix until thouroughly distributed. Spread out the panko so it is even. Cut the lemons into wedges to use for later on.
  3. In a large saute pan add enough olive oil to come up the sides a bit. Heat on medium high until a bit of panko dropped in the oil start to sizzle.
  4. Take out a cutlet and lay it in the spread out panko. Press it in, and then flip. Press again until the whole outside of the cutlet is covered. Add to the oil and add another two coated cutlets to the pan (or to fit). Fry on one side until golden brown. Flip and repeat. Drain on paper towels, and sprinkle some salt on them as soon as they come out of the oil.
  5. Serve with the lemon wedges.

4 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. John – Nice Blog with great photo’s! This particular entry reminds me of my youth. These (but with veal) were a staple of my nonna’s kitchen. For some reason she always used dehydrated parsley, and of course, no panko back then. Like you, I use chicken or sometimes turkey breast. Great sandwiches with leftovers the next day. She did sliced cardoon the same way. Good stuff.

    Thanks

    Reply

    • Paul – My mother and grandmother also used dehydrated parsley. And I remember getting chicken cutlet sandwiches in my lunchbox in elementary school!

      John

      Reply

  2. I’m younger and from an Italian-American family as well and my mom is still making cutlets as my grandmother did. Love the recipe, John… really does seem like all Italian-Americans have a variation on this!

    Reply

    • I agree – no two recipes are alike, but the best is always the one that you grow up with.

      John

      Reply

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