Cotoletta alla Milanese
This is one of those dishes that make a regular appearance on our table at home. It’s simple, it’s crunchy, it’s meaty and always satisfying. But while simple, there is somewhat of an art to getting this golden, breaded veal chop perfectly crisp outside and moist inside. All the credit to cooking and testing countless recipes, I have to say, goes to my husband Marco, who is obsessed with getting the most incredibly crisp breadcrumb coating possible. I first shared this recipe with his tried and true method for the perfect, traditional cotoletta alla milanese on my Regional Italian Food column that I write weekly for Food52. But it is too good not to share here too.
The cotoletta alla milanese is a classic of Milan’s cuisine, up there with saffron-stained risotto, osso buco and panettone. It gets its name from the cut of meat traditionally used, la costoletta, an inch-thick bone-in veal chop, which would correspond to a prime rib cut, such as rib eye. A second version of the cotoletta is made with a beaten-out-till-enormous-but-thin cutlet of veal, aptly called l’orecchia di elefante (elephant’s ear), as reference to its size and shape. It’s for those who like their fried goods crunchy all the way.
The Milanese can get a little defensive if you happen to suggest that their cotoletta is comparable to Vienna’s weiner schnitzel, and will proudly point out that their cotoletta has been a specialty of the Lombardy region since the twelfth century. Recorded in documents from 1134, a meal of lombos cum panitio (breadcrumbed rib chops) was one of nine courses for the festival of San Satiro. It’s mentioned again in 1492 in a recipe in Maestro Martino da Como’s famous manuscript. The dish was even transported to Argentina where it became adapted to local tastes and is known as milanesa, a homage to its city of origin.
Essentially, a veal chop is passed through beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and the chop is fried in a shamelessly large amount of clarified butter until crisp. It’s easy to make and good results are achieved when following these few golden rules:
- Although traditionally cotoletta alla milanese is made with just egg and breadcrumbs, passing it through flour before the egg helps to keep on the breadcrumb coating.
- Don’t salt the meat or put it in the coating as it will lead to the breadcrumbs falling off. Season at the end, preferably with nice, flaky salt.
- Leaving the breadcrumbed chop to rest in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before frying will result in a crisper coating.
- Use clarified butter. It’s really easy to make – see this post by David Lebovitz for a good recipe.
- Pan fry on medium heat. Too cool will result in a soggy breadcrumb coating and too hot will burn. If you notice your pan getting too hot, adding some cold butter is a good way to even out the temperature quickly.
- As soon as you put the chop in the pan, do not touch it until it’s ready to turn. One turn only. Messing about with it while cooking can ruin the coating.
Cotoletta alla Milanese
Breaded veal chops, Milan style
Cotoletta is usually served with a lemon wedge to cut the fried-in-butter goodness, but after all that work to get the perfectly golden, crisp breadcrumb coating, some may think it’s a bit counterproductive as it immediately turns your work soggy. Better would be to serve it with a glass of wine — a sparkling Franciacorta would do the trick. Also, while veal is the classic – this same method of breadcrumb coating is great with pork chops or chicken too.
For 4 people
- 4 veal chops, such as bone-in rib eye
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
- 1 cup clarified butter
- pinch of salt
Pat the veal chops well with kitchen paper so they are as dry as possible and set aside while preparing the coating. In a shallow bowl, crack the eggs and beat. In another bowl, place the breadcrumbs.
Dust the chops first with flour, then dip in the beaten egg, letting any excess egg drip off before placing in the breadcrumbs to coat entirely. Pat down the breadcrumbs well.
Place the clarified butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the butter begins turning a caramel colour, place the chops in the butter and fry until golden brown. Turn, the chops, and continue frying until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes per side. You may need to cook just two chops at a time; if doing this, use half the butter for every pair of chops.
Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to rest the meat. You may want to place it somewhere to keep warm, such as in a low oven (or an oven that was heated and then turned off), but do not cover it or place it directly on a plate as it will become soggy. Season with salt and serve warm with a wedge of lemon (if you’re going that way) or a glass of wine.