Chicken Milanese in crisp breadcrumbs, zinged with fresh tarragon, only needs a green salad to serve with. Or maybe a few fries.
What’s special about chicken Milanese?
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 used in the necks of woods other than Italy, 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 a dish called 'chicken Milanese' can be found in quite the fanciest places.
How to make it special?
And so I’ve tried to fancify my pollo Milanese: it’s still dead easy to do but tastes a bit more special.
First off, I marinate flattened chicken breasts in tarragon flavoured buttermilk. 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. Lots of chopped leaves added to the buttermilk and salt marinade certainly make a flavour difference.
Breading and frying
Buttermilk helps the breadcrumbs stick, but don’t skip dredging the fillets in flour, then shaking off the excess.
Another tip: add a couple of tablespoons of water to the beaten egg. And finally, Panko breadcrumbs are the best in the world for all kinds of breading and coating.
You can deep fry the fillets if you have the stomach for the smell and/or good frying facilities. But shallow frying the chicken will do the trick just as well.
How to serve chicken Milanese?
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.
More chicken fillet recipes
Chicken saltimbocca, thin escalopes of chicken fillet layered with sage leaves, Parmesan and Parma ham. Saltimbocca is classically made with veal but chicken is great cooked like this.
Creamy chicken with mushrooms and leeks; one pan dish great with pasta. Tender chicken pieces cooked in creamy sauce, with caramelised leeks and mushrooms.
Chicken breast and vegetable tray bake – it’s good for a weeknight dinner and impressive enough for easy entertaining. Only one pan to wash up!
More breaded meat recipes
Buttermilk fried pork fillet cutlets seasoned with mustard and marjoram. Pork tenderloin brined in buttermilk and shallow fried in cornmeal coating.
Tonkatsu is a Japanese dish of breaded fried pork cutlet; there is also chicken version called torikatsu. My tonkatsu recipe uses flattened pork medallion coated in panko breadcrumbs with tomato and Worcestershire sauce flavour.
Pojarski is a super tasty cutlet made of steak partly chopped and partly minced. My veal pojarski is an authentic dish unlike the cheap breaded chicken patties pretending to be the Russian classic.