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Chicken Milanese in crisp breadcrumbs, zinged with fresh tarragon, only needs a green salad to serve with. Or maybe a few fries.
Italian dishes have a cult status, not always deserving. Call anything alla norma and it’s wowed at. How much better does pasta al forno sound than pasta bake? And aren’t tortelloni going to be tastier than dumplings?
Chicken Milanese sounds great; you’re expecting chicken cooked in a fancy way, super flavoursome and excitingly tasty. What it is actually is boring as hell: a breadcrumbed piece of chicken. A breaded cutlet. Chicken schnitzel. Fried chicken. But all those names are nowhere near as appealing as chicken Milanese! Mamma mia! Delizioso!
Well, delizioso it certainly is if you fry a decent, free range chicken breast in a good, crisp coating of breadcrumbs but it isn’t anything special. As above, schnitzels, cutlets and fried chicken have it covered in a similar way. But chefs will think twice before putting ‘fried chicken’ on the menu while chicken Milanese can be found in quite the fanciest places.
And so I’ve tried to fancify my pollo Milanese: it’s still dead easy to do but tastes a bit more special. Buttermilk soaking is borrowed from American fried chicken – you might say it’s the same thing so hopefully the combination won’t be offensive to anyone. Buttermilk soaking makes boring chicken wonderfully succulent and juicy and also it helps the coating stick. The other addition is smothering my chicken in fresh tarragon which – I’m sure – the Italian chefs would agree is the best ever herb to season chicken with.
It’s traditionally served with just a few rocket leaves: the Italian way is to eat their veg in a separate course rather than alongside the meat. But as we are not used to eating an antipasto, a pasta and a secondo course on any given weeknight, I’d probably have it with a few fries and celeriac remoulade.
chicken milaneseServings: 4Time: 45 minutes plus marinating and chilling
- 2-4 chicken breast fillets (depending on size)
- 120ml (½ cup) buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped
- plain flour, for dredging
- 2 eggs, beaten with 1 tbsp. water
- Panko breadcrumbs, for coating
- groundnut oil, for frying
1. Slice the large chicken fillets in two horizontally. Place the halves (or the smaller fillets, if whole) on a board, cover with cling film and flatten with a mallet to about 1cm (½ in) thick. Flip the fillets over halfway through to get an even thickness. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
2. Pour the buttermilk into a large shallow bowl and stir in 1 tsp salt and the chopped tarragon. Add the chicken fillets and turn them over so they are all coated with the marinade on both sides. Chill for at least an hour and up to overnight.
3. Prepare the breading station: two large plates for flour and breadcrumbs and a shallow bowl for eggwash.
4. Lift the chicken fillets from buttermilk shaking off excess. Dredge each one in the flour, then dip in the egg wash and finally toss in the breadcrumbs to coat. Place on a plate lined with kitchen towels and chill for at least 30 minutes.
5. When ready to fry, heat the oil in a large frying pan; it should be about 1cm deep. When a crumb thrown in starts to sizzle, turn the heat down to medium-high and fry the chicken on both sides until beautifully golden and crisp. If you need to fry in batches, keep a baking tray in a very warm oven to transfer one batch there while you cook another.
6. Serve immediately with rocket and/ or remoulade on the side. Any leftovers will make the greatest sandwich in the world.