Chicken Milanese on a bed of arugula and tomatoes

The time for ripe tomatoes is running out, so make use of them in all possible ways. Pair them with this Italian dish of crusted chicken sprinkled with Parmesan cheese on a bed of fresh arugula. 

Garden of Eating
Crusty chicken combines with juicy tomatoes and fresh arugula.

It seems there's a fungus among us. I heard last week that the rumors of late blight in Hudson Valley, N.Y. have been confirmed. Keep your spores off my 'maters.

We've only been harvesting our little crop of tomatoes (some cherries and some big, juicy Ulster Germaids that we've grown from seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library) for a couple weeks now and they are so sweet and flavorful – I am hoping we can at least enjoy them for a few more weeks. That's my roundabout way of suggesting that you make this delicious meal now, since there may not be much of a future for tomatoes on the East Coast this summer.

This dish is inspired by a similar one I had at Cucina, an upscale Italian restaurant here in Woodstock, N.Y., that we really like.

Anyway, back to the recipe. This is a simple meal but so good. The chicken is crispy outside and tender inside with a nice crunchy, salty, cheesy crust that is enhanced by squeezing a little lemon juice over it. And the sweet, juicy tomatoes play nicely with the fresh, peppery bite of the arugula combined with a splash of olive oil and rich, sweet balsamic vinegar.

Although I am in no way above using prepared breadcrumbs, I was overtaken by feelings of guilt while staring at a Bread Alone baguette I'd unintentionally let go stale on the counter. So I made a small tub of breadcrumbs by food processing the bread to fine crumbs and then adding some grated Parmesan, sea salt and black pepper to make the breading mixture.

The process of breading and frying the chicken always takes a little more time and effort than I'd like, but on the whole this is a fairly easy meal to assemble. The chicken pieces are quite thin, so they cook quickly.

I made the salad with some arugula I picked out of our little container garden – I love being able to pick it while it's still young and tender and has not yet turned bitter or tough.

I topped it with some of our first fresh tomatoes and then drizzled some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a tiny bit of salt over it all.

Chicken Milanese On a Bed of Arugula & Tomatoes

Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless, organic chicken cutlets
1-1/2 -2 cups breadcrumbs (Panko is a good choice for a crispy crust)
2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, beaten in a shallow bowl
1 cup of flour
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large or 3-4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch of arugula, washed, dried and with the ends of the stems removed
4 lemon slices
1/3 cup olive oil plus a little more for the salad
Balsamic vinegar

Put one or two of the chicken cutlets in a plastic bag (you can also use wax paper or plastic wrap but a bag will work just as well and is less wasteful), lay them on a cutting board and pound them with a mallet or rolling pin until they are nice and flat and thin (you're shooting for a thickness of roughly 1/2 inch). Repeat with the others and set them aside.

Prepare your breading station: combine the flour, salt and pepper on a plate or a rimmed baking dish, put the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl next to the flour, combine the breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and a little more salt in a third rimmed dish next to the eggs. The order should be flour, eggs, and then breadcrumbs.

Working one at a time, dredge the flattened chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, making sure you coat them well, then dip them in the egg (again, cover the whole piece) but try to let the excess egg drip off back into the bowl, and then roll them in the breadcrumbs making sure you cover all the surfaces (you can pick some up and sprinkle it on the cutlet if this is challenging). Set each piece aside as you finish then go wash your hands.

Heat 1/3 cup of olive oil in a wide shallow frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Fry the chicken pieces until golden brown – about 3-5 minutes on each side then remove them from the pan and drain on a paper bag (or a plate).

Divide the arugula between four plates and top with the chopped tomatoes. Drizzle the greens and tomatoes with a little olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a little sea salt and black pepper then top each one with a piece of chicken. Serve with a wedge of lemon on the side.

Related post on: Garden of Eating

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