Cotoletta are the topic of much discussion and some contestation in my extended family. For a long time, the unspoken consensus was that, while my Mum’s version were very good, those of another family member (who will not be named for reasons of Sicilian pride!) may have been slightly better. Mum rallied though, and through trial, error (I recall Kellogs cornflake crumbs were part of one experiment), and repetitious perfecting, arrived at the recipe below. She was almost reluctant to let me publish her secret recipe, (certain other recipes having already been deemed too special for publication!), but the terms of deal being such that I can cook them for her in the future, Mum finally relented…
(Serves as many as 6, or as few 4, depending on who is eating)
- 600g chicken mini-breast fillets (tenderloins in ‘Australian’)
- 100g very coarsely grated Parmesan cheese – grate the cheese yourself using the coarsest edge of a conventional box grater
- 200g stale white bread (with which to make bread crumbs)
- 150g plain white flour
- 3 eggs
- Small bunch of fresh parsley – roughly chopped
- Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
- Fine sea salt
- Canola or light olive oil for shallow frying
Chicken mini-breasts (or tenderloins) are the smaller fillet attached to the underside of the larger chicken breast. These are sometimes packaged and sold separately, or you could ask your butcher for them specifically. The mini-breasts, once flattened slightly using a rolling pin, are the perfect size for cotoletta, but failing this, you can use whole chicken breast – just cut horizontally through to reduce the thickness and then in half lengthways to reduce their size before flattening.
I always think of making cotoletta as a kind of production line. First there is the flour station, then the egg, then finally the crumb.
The flour is the easiest to set up, just measure out about 100g, pour out onto a large flat plate, and sprinkle with a little salt.
Next, for the egg station, break three eggs together in a deep bowl, and beat together adding a sprinkle of salt, the finely grated lemon zest, and chopped parsley. (Including the parsley in the egg mix, as opposed to the crumb, prevents it from burning during cooking.)
Lastly, for the breadcrumbs, blitz the dry stale bread in a food processor until it forms a rubbly crumb. Don’t worry if some of the crumbs are quite large and flaky, other bits of the crumb will be much finer, and a mix of coarse and fine crumb achieves a good combination of crunch and coverage. (Shop-bought crumbs, with their boring uniformity, don’t give much in the way of textural variation and that’s why it’s nice to make the breadcrumbs at home.) Once you are happy with the texture you’ve achieved, pour the crumbs out of the processor onto a flat plate or into a shallow tray and mix through the coarsely grated Parmesan by hand.
To prepare the chicken, place a fillet between two layers of cling film and gently beat to a uniform thickness of just over 5mm using a rolling pin. Repeat for the remaining fillets, placing these in a pile, ready for the production line…
First, through the flour – cover both sides of the filet, patting the flour on to ensure that it sticks, then shake off any excess and onto the egg.
Dredge the fillet smoothly through the egg mixture using a fork, before holding it above the bowl momentarily to allow any excess to drip off before transferring to the breadcrumb and cheese mixture.
Pat the crumb mix firmly onto the fillet using your hands and covering all over before once again shaking gently to remove any crumbs that have not completely stuck.
If you’d like, the cotoletta can now be refrigerated for up to six hours before frying, (but preferably not longer or the crumbs will become too moist). Otherwise, proceed to fry immediately by pouring enough oil to shallow fry into a large, heavy-based frying pan and heating over medium heat. Allow the oil time to heat sufficiently before adding the first batch of cotoletta (frying up to three at a time depending on the size of your pan).
Cook on one side until the crumbs are golden-brown in colour, before turning over and cooking the other side. Turn the heat down slightly if your cotoletta are becoming overly dark very quickly as it is important to give the chicken enough time to completely cook through. Once cooked, lift out onto kitchen paper to drain.
Serve warm with some wedges of lemon to garnish. Home-cooked chips with an excess of flaky salt are my favourite things to eat alongside. Mum has always cooked her chips in an electric frying pan, and while I don’t know, formally speaking, why this should make them taste any better, I can promise you that they do! If you have an electric frying pan, give it a try, and let me know what you think…