In September, it's time to put away the grill and return to the kitchen. So many of us are heading back to work or to school, and chicken Milanese makes for the perfect weeknight supper—it's a crowd-pleaser that is as popular with adults as it is with youngsters. With a little advance preparation, you can make this dish very quickly.
This recipe is a variation of a staple of brasserie menus all over my native France: veal Milanese. As in that dish, the cutlets are breaded (I add pulverized almonds to the coating for crunch) and finished with a pinch of acidity—capers and lemon juice. In this pan-frying method, they are browned in a thin layer of olive oil, which is much healthier than deep-frying. At the end I add a little butter to the pan, both for taste and to achieve the perfect golden-brown color.
For my 23-year-old daughter, Alix, who is gluten-intolerant, I make a version of chicken Milanese in which Kellogg's gluten-free Rice Krispies are substituted for bread crumbs. The cereal is made with whole-grain brown rice and eliminates barley malt, the source of gluten in the original Rice Krispies. This variation works surprisingly well. Either way, one can garnish the dish, as I have here, with hard-boiled egg and sautéed mushrooms and scallions—or lighten it up with a raw garnish such as a vegetable slaw or shredded salad.
WHAT TO DRINK
Surprisingly, Daniel Johnnes, wine director of Daniel Boulud's restaurants, suggests a crisp white from Greece, the 2011 Argyros Santorini Assyrtiko ($19), as a pairing for this French dish with Italian roots. "Why not?" he says. "Its clean, fresh flavor and aromas perfectly complement the vibrant vinegar, citrus, caper, and mustard ingredients in the recipe." A more classic pairing would be the 2011 Palazzone Orvieto Terre Vineate ($14), from the Umbria region of Italy. "Its almost saline sharpness would buffer the bright flavors of the chicken," he says.
6 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 T white wine vinegar
1 small bunch tarragon, leaves picked
½ cup Dijon mustard
3 large boneless chicken breasts (about 3 lbs.)
1½ cups blanched sliced almonds
2 cups Rice Krispies (or gluten-free Rice Krispies)
¾ cup flour (or rice flour)
2 T olive oil, more for frying
4 T butter, more for frying
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved
½ bunch scallions, trimmed, white stems cut into 1" pieces, and greens thinly sliced
¼ cup dry white wine
2 T capers
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, add the carrots, and simmer until tender, about 3 minutes. Scoop out the carrots and reserve. Return the water to a boil, add the vinegar, and submerge 3 eggs in their shells. Simmer for 8 minutes, then drain and peel the eggs under cold running water. Slice into quarters lengthwise. Chop half the tarragon leaves (about 3 T), and, in a small bowl, stir to combine with the mustard; set aside.
Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise. Place each piece between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, pound them until they are ⅛ inch thick. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
Crack the remaining 3 eggs into a small bowl, and beat until smooth. In a food processor, chop the almonds into a fine meal (do not overchop, or they will clump). Add the Rice Krispies, and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.
Place the flour, beaten eggs, and almond mixture into separate shallow dishes, and season each with salt and pepper. Working with one piece at a time, dredge the chicken in the flour, and tap away the excess. Dredge in the egg, wiping away the excess, then dredge in the almond mixture, pressing gently to make certain it adheres to the chicken.
Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add two to three pieces of chicken in a single layer. Cook for 3 minutes, or until golden-brown. Turn the chicken over, add 1 T butter, and continue cooking for another 3 minutes, basting the chicken with the butter in the pan. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, adding more oil and butter as needed, and draining off the fat between batches. Transfer the chicken to a paper-towel-lined platter and keep warm.
In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 T olive oil over high heat, then add the mushrooms and scallion whites. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté until browned, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, and reduce until almost dry. Reduce the heat to medium, add 3 T butter, and heat until it browns. Add the reserved carrots, the capers, and lemon juice, and swirl to combine.
To serve, top each piece of chicken with some of the sautéed mushrooms, carrots, and scallion whites. Spoon the pan sauce over and around the chicken. Garnish with two quarters of boiled egg, a few tarragon leaves, and some sliced scallion greens. Serve with the tarragon mustard.