This week we're going to expand upon a culinary technique which we've mentioned in two of our previous columns: preparing meat in the scaloppine style.
Scaloppine is an Italian term for a dish featuring cutlets of meat, or "scallops," which are pounded thin, then often dredged in flour and sautéed. In other words, it's a fancy term for an easy technique that, when mastered, will vastly improve your culinary repertoire.
We love the scaloppine technique in large part for its ease and versatility. As a chef, Tony appreciates the quick cooking time that this method allows, and the assurance that the final product will be tender. As a home cook, I like the many choices available when it comes to preparing scaloppine.
Veal Marsala and Chicken Piccata are two examples of popular scaloppine dishes, but many recipes also feature pork, beef, turkey and even fish. We have previously introduced two very different recipes which use the scaloppine method: Stuffed Turkey Breast and Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin. To help you truly master this technique, we're adding Sarello's Sicily Chicken to the list.
This dish is a favorite among our guests at Sarello's and is also a staple in our home since its simple preparation and overall deliciousness make it very kid-friendly. In fact, our 8-year-old son, Giovanni, does nearly all the prep work himself now, allowing us to step in only when it's time to fry the chicken.
Our recipe for Sicily Chicken highlights the traditional Sicilican flavors of rosemary, lemon and parmesan cheese, but what makes this dish different from other "parmigianas" is a Japanese-style breadcrumb called panko, which can be found in our local grocery stores.
Panko breadcrumbs are crispier and more airy in texture than standard breadcrumbs. When cooking with panko breadcrumbs, the coating is light and crunchy. There is also very little greasiness, because the panko tends to resist absorbing the oil.
Before frying, we dredge our scaloppine of chicken in flour, eggwash and panko breadcrumbs. We fry the cutlets in vegetable oil over medium-high heat, turning several times until golden brown on both sides, about five to six minutes total. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil before serving. Squeeze a fresh lemon over the top while still hot, which naturally enhances the other flavors in the dish.
To create scallopine, you will need a meat tenderizer (also called a meat mallet), a cutting board, a sharp knife and the meat of your choice. Some recipes require flour, some do not. In the beginning you may wish to place the cutlet of meat between two pieces of plastic wrap when pounding it out, until you get the feel of the technique. This will help prevent the meat from tearing.
For this recipe, we use boneless, skinless split chicken breasts which we then slice in half, lengthwise. When using other meats, cut into half-inch cutlets before starting, if necessary. Place the cutlet of meat on a cutting board and use the spiked side of your meat tenderizer to evenly pound the meat into thin pieces, about a ¼-inch to Z,-inch in thickness.
Once this is achieved, you have created the scallops, or scallopine, of meat to use in the recipe of your choice. Bravo! By mastering this simple technique, you can now make a limitless number of quick and easy dishes.
We will be offering a hands-on cooking class to further demonstrate the scaloppine technique on Feb. 25 at Sarello's. For more information, please visit us online at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.
Sarello's Sicily Chicken
Serves: 2 to 4
6 pieces of chicken breast, thinly pounded (scaloppine-style) - use boneless, skinless, split chicken breast
4 cups Japanese breadcrumbs (panko)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups flour for dredging
4-6 large eggs
3 ounces milk
3 ounces vegetable oil, or more as needed
1 lemon, cut in half
Pound the chicken into scaloppine cutlets and set aside. Beat the eggs and milk together to make an egg wash. Use three shallow dishes or pie pans to create a dredging station for the flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs.
Dredge the chicken first in flour, then the egg wash, patting off any excess flour and egg before dredging the piece in the breadcrumbs. Pack tightly to completely cover the chicken.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat then fry the chicken on both sides until it is golden brown, turning often to avoid burning. Transfer to plate lined with paper towels before serving. Squeeze the fresh lemon over the chicken while still hot and serve.
To turn this recipe into Chicken Parmigiana, lay the fried cutlets on a baking sheet and top each one with Mozarella, Provolone or Fontina cheese. Bake in a 350°F oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until cheese is just melted. Transfer the cutlets to serving plates or platter, top with warm tomato sauce, and garnish with grated parmesan cheese. Serve and enjoy.
Leftover cooked cutlets can be stored in an airtight container or Ziploc bag and refrigerated for 2-3 days.
This column was written exclusively for The Forum.
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni.