What is it about a breaded and fried slice of meat that is so cross-culturally endearing? Call it a cutlet, call it chicken-fried steak. Call it schnitzel or Milanesa or cotoletta alla Milanese; everybody loves it the world around. Use beef, veal or pork. Or use chicken or turkey. Its all good.
The technique is always the same: Meat is pounded flat, dipped in flour and beaten egg, then coated in bread crumbs and shallow-fried until golden and crisp.
There are abundant regional variations, and I try to sample them wherever I go. Quality varies, but if you are a fan, it is hard to find a truly bad version. The point is, even a tough cut of meat, when prepared in this fashion, emerges from the pan succulent and tender.
Ive had genuine delicate Wiener schnitzel in Vienna, authentic big-as-a-plate Milanese cutlets in Milan and the well-loved Milanesa in Argentina, sometimes as a sandwich. I cant resist even a so-so truck stop rendition of chicken-fried anything, country gravy and all. I have a fondness for my Israeli friends stellar chicken schnitzel rolled in cornflake crumbs. And a morsel or two of Japanese tonkatsu in a panko crust is always nice.
Making this breaded marvel is easy at home. I cut thin slices from a pork loin and flatten them only a bit. Rather than fine dry crumbs, I prefer to make soft crumbs from a day-old French loaf, cubed and whirled in a food processor, which creates a coating with a little texture.
Olive oil is my choice for frying; clarified butter or good lard is fine, too. Make sure the oil is hot, but not too hot, and dont skimp. You need more than a film of oil in the pan to achieve the perfect color and crunch. Season your cutlets both before and after frying (it makes a difference) and serve them as soon as they are ready.
I scatter chopped parsley, lemon zest and capers over the top, along with a sprinkling of chopped egg. But a lemon wedge is all a well-fried cutlet really needs. Dont forget to administer a squeeze of lemon juice just before digging in.
To see a printable recipe, click on link below:
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