I’ll never forget being invited to my grandparent’s house for “fried chicken” when I was younger. Visions of KFC danced in my head, but when I sat down at the table, there was no bucket, no thighs or drumsticks, no coleslaw or gravy in sight. “What is this? This isn’t fried chicken!” I said. My grandparents looked at me, confused. “Of course it is!” My grandfather exclaimed. Then my grandma chimed in, “It’s ITALIAN fried chicken!“
Growing up in New Jersey, I learned how to make an Italian breaded chicken cutlet around the same time I learned how to make french toast. So did everyone I know. These thin, crispy Italian treats are an absolute staple where I’m from. The basic technique of breading chicken breasts first with flour, then egg, then Italian seasoned breadcrumbs is something just about everyone here can do in their sleep.
But! Not all chicken cutlets are created equal. The standard procedure will result in a cutlet thats pretty good, but there are a few different things you can do to transform your cutlets into something really special.
First, you must pound out the chicken until its very thin. The pounding does two things – it ensures the chicken is at an even thickness, and also helps tenderize it a bit.
Second, season everything – the meat, the flour, the eggs, the breadcrumbs – really, really well.
Third, cheese. Use a ridiculous amount of cheese.
And most importantly, if you want really amazing chicken cutlets, throw away the store bought Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and make your own from scratch. Taking a little extra effort to use fresh garlic, herbs, and of course plenty of cheese, will be totally worth it in the end.
When I have old bread laying around, I’ll grind it up into breadcrumbs, which makes for pretty exceptional cutlets. But I’ve found that panko breadcrumbs work just as well, if not better. They’re so light and airy, they produce the crispiest, crunchiest cutlet around. Slather with marinara and mozz for the most amazing chicken parm you’ve ever tasted, serve Milanese style with a crisp arugula salad, or just eat one cold, straight out of the fridge, with your hands. The latter happens to be my preference, but you probably already knew that.
One Year Ago: Meyer Lemon + Cardamom Tart
- 3 cups panko or homemade breadcrumbs
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
- 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh Italian flat leaf parsely
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 3/4 cup plus 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup AP flour
- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- olive oil for frying
- In a medium, shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, 3/4 cup cheese, and set aside. In another medium, shallow bowl, whisk together 3 eggs with 1/2 cup cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon water until fully combined. Pour the flour into another shallow bowl or plate, season with salt and pepper and mix to combine.
- Cut the chicken into thin, even slices. Take one piece of thinly sliced chicken and place it on a cutting board. Place a piece of plastic wrap over top, and use a meat mallet to pound it out to be about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining chicken, then generously season each piece with salt and pepper.
- Set up the breading station so that the chicken is on the far left, then next to it the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, and then a landing plate or pan to hold the breaded chicken.
- Take a piece of chicken and dip it into the flour to coat on all sides, then tap off the excess (*See note). Next, coat it in the egg mixture, and let the excess drip off. Then, into the breadcrumbs. Be sure to press it down and move it around so that it's thoroughly coated. Place the chicken on the reserved plate, and repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saute pan over medium-high heat. Place 1-3 chicken breasts in at a time, depending on how many your pan can hold. Don't overcrowd the pan. Cook until golden brown on each side, and then remove to paper towels or a rack to drain.
- Serve as is with a squeeze of lemon, with a tomato arugula salad, or smother with marinara and mozzarella to make chicken parm. This procedure also works equally as well with veal and pork.
- Leftovers can be stored, wrapped tightly, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- *When breading, I try to designate one hand for touching only dry things, like flour and breadcrumbs, and one hand for touching only wet, like the raw chicken and eggs. This prevents you from breading your fingers in the process.