Chicken Milanese

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A strange thing has happened to me recently. I’ve been working on a play (don’t ask any questions! it’s too soon) and also going to the gym five days a week so that, at the end of the day, I wander into Trader Joe’s (underneath my gym) in a sort of daze, eager to just grab some things to throw a tasty dinner together. In other words: by shifting my professional focus, I’ve actually gotten better at my profession because most people who read my blog wander into Trader Joe’s in a similar state at the end of the day and want to know how to put something tasty on the table. So it may come as a shock to you that I was able to make this, what seems like a highly involved dish, after arriving home at 6:30 in no mood to make a highly involved dish. It’s Chicken Milanese and it’s a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of a weeknight dinner.

What makes it so great is you get a crispy chicken cutlet–basically, fried chicken–that’s cut by a bright, acidic, slightly bitter arugula salad. All kinds of textures, temperatures, flavors: it’s good stuff.

To start, you’ll need as many boneless, skinless chicken breasts as you’d like to serve. In our case, I only needed two. Place each breast between sheets of plastic wrap (I only had parchment paper) and pound away with a rolling pin until they’re about a 1/2-inch thick:

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Ok, now that you’ve done that, you’ve gotta set up your work station: you’ll need a pan of all-purpose flour, a pan of eggs beaten together (about 3 eggs), and then a pan full of Panko bread crumbs.

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It’s important to salt all of these things, just slightly, and then I think it’s a really good idea to flavor the Panko. My strategy was to add some grated Parmesan cheese, some chopped parsley, and the zest of a lemon:

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Now, you just dip your chicken breasts in the flour, the egg, and then the panko until fully coated.

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Set them aside and heat a layer of olive oil (about 1/2 cup) in a cast iron skillet. When it’s good and hot, lay your chicken breasts in and allow them to sizzle about 5 minutes a side:

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While that’s happening, make your salad. Toss washed arugula with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and–just for the hell of it–some pickled red onions (I’ve been using those in almost everything lately, they’re wonderful), leftover olives, and shaved Parmesan.

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By the time you finish making the salad, it’ll be time to flip your chicken:

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Cook on that second side until it’s crispy too and then cut into one of the chicken breasts to see if it’s cooked all the way through. When it is, remove them both to plates, squeeze some lemon over the chicken and top with the salad.

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Is this easier than ordering a pizza? No, certainly not, but with just a little effort, you can have a special dinner like this on the table and feel really good about yourself. Especially if you add a cold glass of white wine to the mix.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going back to my play. Pulitzer prizes don’t win themselves.

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