My great-aunt is a fabulous cook. For some reason, everything she makes tastes better. We used to visit her for a week every summer when I was growing up. This is one of the dinners she used to make us. We can make a version of it, but it never ever tastes as good as hers does. Technically, it’s Chicken Milanese, but since everything my aunt makes is always Dolly Whatever (burgers, pasta, coffee cake, etc), that’s what we call it and what my kids will probably call it.
This is really yummy meal that’s great for entertaining guests or just a nice family dinner. It’s a little labor intensive, though, so sometimes getting everything to be finished at the same time is something of a challenge. But that’s why they have a warm option for the oven, right?
This is a kid-friendly meal as well. I’m not making the same risotto my great-aunt makes because she uses saffron, but we used to shovel that up like crazy when we were kids because it was so good. This is a risotto I got from a Giada diLaurentiis cookbook, but except for the saffron it’s pretty much the same thing.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of risotto, boil up some water, add a cup of orzo and cook for nine minutes. Drain the orzo, add a big pat of butter, some parmesan cheese, and a couple tablespoons of fresh snipped chives. But try the risotto. It is so, so worth it.
The last time I visited Aunt Dolly was when Thomas was about eight months old. I made dinner for her one night, which was sort of nerve-wracking because she’s such an awesome cook. But I must have done okay with it because I got a compliment. It was probably one of the highlights of the trip. She had a really cool chicken cookbook that I went out and bought a copy of when we got back to Massachusetts. I still don’t think any of them are nearly as good as hers.
This is an easy recipe to increase or decrease. You can make it for twelve people or you can make it for two – I’ve done both. One piece of chicken could probably feed two people, but Aunt Dolly’s Italian. If you’re not eating the whole piece, you’re not trying.
- 4 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 in thickness
- grated parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper
- 1 egg, beaten with a little water
- sherry (optional)
- olive oil for frying
There aren’t really a lot of measurements above because this is one of those measure as you go recipes. You can buy chicken cutlets from the grocery store, but since you won’t have to pound them yourself the pieces of chicken will be smaller. I prefer to pound my own because a) it’s cheaper and b) it’s therapeutic. You may not be able to hit your husband or your boss or that jerk in the green Saab who cut you off on the Mass Pike last night with a meat mallet or rolling pin, but that chicken won’t mind.
Set up a breading station. This’ll be sort of messy, but it’s also fun. If your kids are old enough to know they shouldn’t put their egg covered hands in their mouths, this is something fun to do with your kids because it’s messy and it’s cooking. Thomas, when he’s old enough, will love to do this part. In the first shallow dish (or pie plate or dinner plate), spread enough flour to coat the front and back of 4 pieces of chicken (maybe a cup? I don’t know; I just pour it out). Stir in a little salt and pepper. In the next dish, have your beaten egg with water. In the last dish, pour out Italian bread crumbs (see above measurement for flour) and a couple heaping tablespoons of parmesan cheese. The cheese should definitely not be equal to the bread crumbs; you just want a hint of it so people are wondering what the flavor in the background is.
Dip your chicken in flour on both sides; shake off excess. Then dip in egg mixture to coat both sides. Last, dip in breadcrumb mixture, pressing to get the breadcrumbs on both sides. Repeat until all four cutlets are breaded.
I tend to fry these one at a time in a large skillet, until golden brown on each side, then put on a cookie sheet in a low oven until the rest of dinner is done. You don’t want to crowd your skillet because then the chicken won’t brown or cook through. You may have to keep adding oil; keep an eye on it because you don’t want the breaded coating to stick to the pan. Heat your skillet on medium high. Add oil when the skillet’s hot, then lower the temp to medium low. You’re not frying them in oil, per se (at least I’m not. I’m pretty sure Dolly does), but you want enough oil in the pan so the chicken doesn’t stick. Cook until golden brown on one side, flip and cook on the other side. If the chicken is not cooked all the way through, put on your cookie sheet and cook in a 350 oven for 15 minutes.
While the chicken is in the skillet, squeeze a little lemon juice on one side. At this point, if you’re using sherry (and I highly recommend you do), splash a little sherry on the cutlet. When you place on the cookie sheet, add a couple slices of lemon to each cutlet.
Risotto, when made correctly, is the creamiest, most amazing rice dish you’ll eat. It doesn’t even taste like rice. It’s so delicious. The first couple times I made this the amount of stirring annoyed me because I’m not a patient person. But it is so, so worth the effort. There’s a slight bite from the wine, a little salt from the cheese, and the sweetness from the onions. I like Giada’s recipe because it reminds me of Dolly’s (just without the saffron. Someday, I’m going to make the saffron one but only when I’m by myself so I can eat the whole pot. It’s so good).
- 4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup finely chopped onion from 1 onion (finely chopped is the key; you don’t want big pieces of onion here. I also have been known to not measure the onion and just chop 1 medium onion up and use that)
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (has to be Arborio. You can find it in the rice aisle at your grocery store)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth up to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep warm over low heat. Don’t boil.
In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes (remember, small and finely chopped. It will cook that fast). Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter and onion. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporate, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at time, stirring constantly until absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup. That should take about 20 minutes. If you add too much broth, just stir until absorbed. You want the rice to be creamy and tender, but still firm to the bite.
Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese, remaining tablespoon of butter and salt & pepper.
Glazed Carrots (or Thomas’ Carrots)
Thomas has never met a green vegetable he will deign to eat once he moved to table food. He ate every single green vegetable in pureed form there was, but once he got to the nonpureed form, forget it. I suspect he devours these because they’re sweet, but it’s a vegetable so I don’t care. He’ll express an interest in brocoli until I actually offer it to him and then he gives me that superior, “you’re so dumb, Mummy” look as he asks for carrots.
My mom used to make these for us, even though we pretty much ate vegetables without bribes (except brocoli; that had to be doused in Cheez Whiz, which horrified my parents because they would’ve rather eaten moldy cheese than eat something called Cheez Whiz).
- 1 2lb bag of carrots, peeled and cut into disks
- orange juice
- 1 – 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp ginger (optional)
Cover carrots with water in a medium sauce pan and boil until tender. Drain carrots and return to pot. Add a couple inches of orange juice (not enough to cover all the carrots, just enough to coat them. Maybe 1/2 a cup?), brown sugar, butter, and ginger. If your kid won’t howl at the sight of anything green, toss a little chopped, fresh parsley on before serving.
And that was dinner tonight. With a nice cold glass of white wine, it was perfect.