Switching Things Around
I’ve been playing with Nitza Villapol’s Cuban version of Pollo Frito A La Milanesa. The first time I made it with the canned tomato sauce and jarred peppers called for in the recipe. It was good but a little too sweet and a touch too heavy for the summer we’ve been having. Egged on by the appearance of the Schnitzel & Things truck in my neighborhood, the other fried meat, I tried it again with fresh peppers, tomatoes and breadcrumbs. The peppers and tomatoes worked well, and I’ll make it often when a larger variety of tomatoes reach the farmer’s markets, hopefully in the next few weeks. The fresh breadcrumbs however were a disaster. The cutlets would brown unevenly and required way too much oil. I decided to do what the recipe called for in the first place and use ground Cuban crackers to bread the chicken. Though I also substituted olive oil for vegetable and replaced the whole eggs with egg whites, it was the cracker meal breading that offered the continuity from home, transforming it into the comfort food I associate with hot days. I don’t know why I argue.
Pollo a la Milanesa/Breaded Chicken Cutlet
1 1/2 pound chicken cutlet cut in four pieces
For the marinade:
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1 lime
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 large green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped about 1 cup
1/4 cup dry cooking wine
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup petit pois to garnish, thawed.
1 cup cracker meal made of Cuban crackers*
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 large egg whites
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
Mash three garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper into a paste either with a mortar and pestle or garlic press. Add the lemon juice. In a ceramic or glass, pour over chicken and cover. Refrigerate for about one hour.
In a heavy skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, peppers, and minced garlic clove until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, vinegar, salt and pepper. Simmer covered over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes begin to break down. Adjust seasoning to taste.
In a food processor, grind crackers then add Parmesan cheese and spread on dish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with 1 tablespoon of water. Remove chicken from bowl and discard marinade. Dip in the chicken in the breadcrumb mixture then dip in egg whites. Return to bread crumbs until completely breaded.
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the cutlets until golden brown, about three minutes on each side. Replenish oil as needed.
Serve with sauce and petit pois to garnish.
Makes 4 servings.
*Cuban or tropical crackers are available in Latin American markets and most grocery stores. Saltines can be substituted.