Breaded chicken cutlets are sort of a “tabula rasa,” or blank slate dish.
Done well, they ascend the culinary heights of crisp, flavorful, juicy, simple and pretty universally liked.
Like the history of many traditional dishes, the tales of its origin are diffuse.
One claims that breaded cutlets date to the 12th century in Milan, where the cotoletta alla Milanese is mentioned in history books describing a banquet for the canon of Milan’s St. Ambrogio Cathedral. There is also historical evidence that the Romans enjoyed a dish of sliced meat that was breaded and fried. Additionally, Austrians claim the dish as wiener schnitzel, citing a recipe from a cookbook dating to 1719.
Regardless of who invented it — and given the communication limitations of the time it may well have developed in several areas simultaneously and independently — breaded cutlets are alive and well in the 21st century.
I made a batch of them last week for my dinner party standby Chicken Bruschetta and maintained the perfect record of every time I serve it having guests ask for the recipe.
I used this extra-work-but-worth-the-effort breading technique: Dredge the chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, shake off the excess, then dredge it in a bowl containing two lightly beaten eggs. Shake off the excess, dredge it in seasoned bread crumbs, then shake off the excess again.
And I had about eight chicken cutlets leftover from the evening, which was great news for me. This meant four nights of dinner in this free bird world that my husband and I now find ourselves. (I no longer use the term “empty nest,” which sounds sad and lonely; I’m rebranding this stage, which is pretty great.)
I used the chicken cutlets to create the following meals.
As a rule, chicken Parmesan is off limits to kosher and kosher-style diners, but I used vegan cheese from LUHV Vegan Deli. Any vegan cheese or your favorite cheese substitute can be used here, but if you prefer to skip it, that’s OK, too. The cutlets are so well flavored with the marinade and the breading, the dish stands perfectly well without.
If you feel the need to top the chicken with something else, a drizzle of pesto (made without cheese), toum (vegan Lebanese garlic/olive oil spread) or pureed black olives can deliver a bit more heft and flavor.
I prefer to heat this in the oven to protect the texture of the chicken but if you are in a rush, the microwave is an acceptable accelerant.
Use best-quality marinara sauce here — either your own, or a premium purchased brand.
- 2 cooked, breaded chicken cutlets
- ⅔ cup your favorite marinara sauce
- 2 slices vegan cheese, if desired (or other topping such as pesto, toum or olive puree)
Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a small baking dish, spread a thin film of marinara sauce.
Place the chicken cutlets in the sauce. Top the cutlets with the remaining sauce and cheese (or other toppings, if using).
Cover the chicken with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes until heated through. Serve hot.
Reuben-Style Chicken Cutlet Sandwiches
Because there are only two of us at home full time now, I limited the sandwich selection to one. But if you have a larger crowd, this is a fun way to set up a buffet for a football game, tailgate, casual dinner party or just a family dinner with a lot of different preferences.
See below for ideas.
- 4 slices rye bread
- 4 tablespoons Russian dressing
- ½ cup sauerkraut
- 2 chicken cutlets
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small baking dish, heat the chicken cutlets for about 15 minutes.
While the cutlets heat, prepare the sandwiches: Warm the sauerkraut in microwave. Toast the rye bread and spread it with Russian dressing.
When the cutlets are done, add them to the sandwiches and top with sauerkraut.
Other sandwich ideas:
- Vary the bread — use baguettes or Italian rolls, Kaiser rolls, hearty white, pumpernickel or marble rye.
- Broccoli rabe, spinach or escarole sautéed in oil, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes.
- Cole slaw
- Avocados (or guacamole)
- Vegan cheese
- Dijon mustard and kosher dill pickles
- Pesto and roasted red peppers and/or sun-dried tomatoes
- Hoisin or soy sauce and sliced cucumbers
- Cranberry sauce or chutney
- Mayonnaise infused with tobacco sauce
The remaining four cutlets were heated and sliced on salads for lunch and dinner on subsequent days. And then, thoroughly sick of chicken cutlets, I resumed cooking. l