Meat cutlets, breaded lightly and fried. Germans call that schnizel. The Japanese name is tonkatsu. Italians cook meat this way, too.
The version I’m talking about, with Northern Italian roots, is cotoletta alla milanese, pounded as thin as you can get it. The meat is boneless, but if you substitute a bone-in chop, the name usually changes to costoletta. The breading mixture often includes regional hard cheese, grated, and it’s not wrong to throw in some chopped parsley or another herb.
Typically, the dish is showered with baby arugula, then surrounded by tomato wedges and–sometimes, deliciously–roasted potatoes. The result: an easygoing and wonderful one-dish piatto unico.
The cutlets I’ve eaten in restaurants in and around Milan are ample in size, covering most of the plate. I find that going lighter on the meat—about ¼ pound—is more in line with the way my husband and I like to eat. Despite the license taken in my photo, which shows just a little arugula, I go heavy on the dressed arugula.
I’ve prepared chicken and veal cutlets alla milanese, but recently I tried pork cutlets, cut from the leg. Definitely recommended. We have vegetarians in our family, so I also fried eggplant in exactly the same way.
The reviews were good, and soon the meat eaters were clamoring for that, too.
Eggplant, breaded and fried in exactly the same way, is wonderful. For details, see recipe notes.
- 1 pound pork or other cutlets cut no thicker than ½ inch *
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs or panko or more if needed
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
- 1 or 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup grapeseed oil or other vegetable oil or as needed
- Sea salt or kosher salt
- 8 cups baby arugula 5-ounce box
- 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil or to taste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or vincotto or to taste
- 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes halved
- Roasted potatoes optional
- 4 lemon wedges
Blot cutlets dry with paper towels. Unless the cutlets are already thin enough, use a smooth meat pounder or the bottom of a small, heavy saucepan to pound cutlets to a uniform thickness of about ¼ inch. If you can't get it quite that thin, don't worry. Use a firm, gliding motion to avoid tearing the meat.
Measure flour onto a broad, shallow dish (pie plates or cake tins work well). In a second dish, mix bread crumbs with grated cheese. Break eggs into a third bowl, and beat with a fork or whisk.
Coat cutlets with flour, patting off excess. Dip in egg and coat with bread crumbs (you may not need them all). The layer of crumbs should not be thick, but should cover the entire surface. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (this will help the crumbs adhere when the cutlets are cooked).
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet until sizzling hot.
Working in batches, fry cutlets until well browned on both sides and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer with tongs to a platter lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
Place arugula in a shallow bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, tossing well, and the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Toss again, taste and adjust seasoning. The arugula should be lightly but flavorfully dressed.
Place one cutlet on each plate. Top with dressed arugula. Garnish with tomatoes and lemon wedges and, if using, the roasted potatoes.
*Use thin-cut boneless pork chops or slice the cutlets yourself from a boneless pork roast (preferably from the leg).
** To prepare eggplant in the same way, choose one that is not seedy. Cut off the ends, leaving the skin intact. Cut lengthwise in ½-inch slices. Of course, there’s no need to pound the slices as you would with meat.