Regular Bread Crumbs Make Superior Chicken Milanese

by Min Merrell
chicken milanese, breaded chicken cutlets

 So simple, so plain, so perfect Chicken Milanese.

Every once in a while, I’ll read a story about how chefs prefer to use certain regular home ingredients in their cooking. Like it’s a big revelation. The ingredient list is usually accompanied by an intellectual food science-meets-superior taste buds explanation for how these home pantry staples provide exceptional results in certain applications. Just what the dish needed to push it to the next taste stratosphere.

Like how ketchup enlivens and slightly thickens a rich sauce reduction. Like how soft crumbs made from cheap white bread make an oh-so-delicate crust on pan-fried crab cakes. Like how crushed potato chips, sweetened cereal, and pretzels add sophisticated salty sweetness to cutting edge desserts. (I once took a tour through the kitchen of the famed Four Seasons Restaurant in New York with the wonderful Chef Hitch Albin and spied a few cans of Campbell’s tomato soup on the shelves. Hmmm.)

Here’s one of my favorites. Plain dry bread crumbs. Sometimes, I just don’t want the texture of panko. Yes, I do make fancy crumbs from stale Tuscan loaves that we just couldn’t finish. I’ve got two bags in the freezer, one laced with olive oil to quickly crisp up a gratin and one plain. These crumbs are more substantial, livelier, more three-dimensional than their canister counterpart. They turn a mushy country squash casserole into a dressy squash gratin.

Ah, but different textures for different applications. I prefer the plain old kind of bread crumbs for pan frying chicken breasts–ala Chicken Milanese. You’ll get a superior crisp coating that’s perfectly even, providing the perfect ratio of crust to meat. I like the evenness. I like how they take to a squeeze of lemon. I like how boring, dry chicken breasts are delicious and fancy enough for a dinner party and delicious and regular enough for a family weeknight supper.

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