Monday, February 7, 2011

Chicken Milanese with Spring Greens & Parmesan-Browned Butter Orzo

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – June 15, 2010
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe for the menu originally published in Cooking Light, May 2010:

This is a total meal.  Other than possibly needing some crusty bread, you’re set with the evening’s dinner.   Of course, as much as I love Cooking Light creating a complete meal, they also chose to not publish all of the recipes together… or put both recipes in the step-by-step formatting… or even LINK to the Orzo dish from the Chicken Milanese.  THAT, lovely readers, is very annoying.  I had to search high-and-low for both since I forgot to print them out after I made it.

As is usual for me, I began to panic over attempting another breaded chicken dish.  I struggle with breading and frying – ALWAYS cooking the breading unevenly and USUALLY burning at least one of the pieces of chicken.  This was also my first attempt at cooking orzo, but that shows you how easy this recipe was… no problems with perfectly cooked chicken, a great salad and delicious orzo.

My finished product:

Picture published with recipe:

© Cooking Light

Pretty close!  Of course, I used a different salad blend (see below) and my orzo looks a little creamier than Cooking Light.  I even think, and of course I’m biased here, that my chicken looks more evenly browned than theirs.  Succeess!!!

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

Mess:  EH – For having three different dishes to make, this could have turned ugly quickly.  Everything was self-contained and only used one dish or two.  Of course, I had to contend with the dreaded dredge-dip-dredge but luckily I came out on top (but it could have ended up as a SIGH too).

Start-to-Finish Time: About an hour – The chicken and salad recipe said about 40 minutes and there was no timing on the orzo, but I got everything done fairly quickly.  Other than mincing the shallots, everything was measure & mix.

Prep Work: ALL FINGERS STILL HERE – All you gotta do is mince a shallot!  Now, granted, that can be injury-inducing, especially around my kitchen, but you only need a small amount, so pick a nice big shallot and you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – Pretty simple stuff, but a couple mediums that might make a novice squirm – because I did.  Again, the dredge-dip-dredge followed by a skillet cook is kind of a pain if you haven’t done it a lot.  Then you’ve got the whole orzo factor.  It is pasta, but you cook it like a rice or risotto.  It isn’t hard by any stretch of the imagination, but it can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before.

Overall:  YUMMY – Out of all the breaded chicken dishes I’ve made, it is my favorite.  I would certainly make it if I was entertaining, but it hasn’t been cooked again… although maybe now it is time!  I do have the shallots.

Recipe Information:
Prep/Total Time (chicken & salad): 40 minutes
Servings: 2

Nutritional Information
  • Calories 402
  • Total Fat 15.4g (Saturated Fat 3g)
  • Cholesterol 102mg
  • Calcium 80mg
  • Sodium 539mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 17.7g
  • Fiber 1.4g
  • Protein 45.9g
  • Iron 2.2mg

The recipe uses two chicken breasts and pounds them into cutlets.  I bought the same amount of chicken (in terms of pounds) as cutlets and ended up with four.  Now, I felt there was plenty of chicken in one cutlet serving, but you may have to double the salad and orzo to get 4 full meals out of it.  One cutlet with reduced serving of salad and orzo would make a fantastic lunch though!

I cut back the sodium and fat content, even if only slightly, by using the no-fat and reduced-sodium chicken broth.  All the taste with less of the bad stuff.

Changes denoted by red text

¾ teaspoon fresh lemon juice (approximately ½ a lemon)
¾ teaspoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon minced shallots
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Dash of sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups packed spring mix salad greens

4 chicken cutlets
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lemon wedges

1 tablespoon butter
½ cup orzo
2 tablespoons white wine
1¼ cups reduced-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 tablespoon shredded parmesan
1 tablepoons chives

Ingredient Notes:
Lemon – You’ll only need one.  Cut the lemon in half, juice half of it and then cut the other half into wedges.

White Wine Vinegar – you may be tempted to use regular vinegar as a substitute, but this would be a mistake.  This has a moderately tangy taste which is different from regular vinegar.  Since it is an integral part of the dressing, pick up a bottle.

  • You can find this garlicky onion in the same area as the onions.  I usually find them sold in small bags of three or four near the pearl onions, but on occasion they will be loose for individual sale.
  • To mince, select a large shallot and peel/clean it.  Run it along the fine grating side of a box grater.  You need a very small amount, so you probably won’t have to do an entire shallot.
  • If you can’t find shallots, mince a regular onion with a minced clove of garlic.

Kosher Salt
  • Kosher salt has larger grains than regular table salt, so if you don’t’ have it, can’t find it, or don’t want to try it, use half as much regular table salt in your recipes.  P.S.  It isn’t ideal for baking, so this rule only applies to cooking.
  • The original recipe had all the amounts for the entire recipe lumped together.  I broke them out into groupings for the separate dishes.

Olive Oil – should you use your really expensive extra-virgin olive oil or not.  The olive oil and white wine vinegar are the basic components of the dressing for the salad, so if you have good stuff on hand that you save for special occasions, this is it.  Now, if you don’t have fancy olive oil and can’t bring yourself to spending $10.00 on a 3 ounce bottle, don’t worry about it.  I used generic olive oil and it was still wonderful.  Side note:  when it is used for cooking the chicken, feel free to switch back to the less expensive kind if you wish.

Spring Mix Salad Greens – I’m not a huge fan of spring mix salad, so I used a hearts of romaine blend.  You can pick your favorite kind of salad for this dish and it won’t hurt a thing.

Chicken Cutlets
  • The second step of the original recipe is essentially creating your own cutlets (a thin cut of meat).  I personally hate this process and always look for meat cut into cutlets instead of making my own. 
  • To make your own cutlets (from the original recipe): Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to ½” thickness using a meat mallet.

Shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano – from Northern Italy, this is considered one of the top parmesans.  It is a tad pricey (look for it in the specialty cheese section of your produce/deli section) but tastes delicious.  The original recipe called for grated cheese, but in the picture, it is clearly shredded.  I prefer shredded cheese anyway, so that is what I used.  You can see it didn’t affect the end result at all.

Orzo – (pronounced OR-zoh) you can find this rice shaped pasta with the regular pasta.  It is usually sold in a small box and will either be high or low on the shelves.

White Wine – if you don’t have a bottle of wine open, you can buy a small bottle of white cooking wine from the same area as the vinegar in the grocery store.

Reduced-Sodium Fat-Free Chicken Broth – the original recipe called for regular chicken broth, but in the name of saving calories, I used reduced-sodium and fat-free and it was still delicious.

Shredded Parmesan
  • The original recipe called for grated parmesan, but I used the shredded I had on hand.  It melts into the pasta, so there is no issues with presentation or taste.
  • If you have left over Parmigiano-Reggiano, you can use it in the pasta as well.

Chives – I use freeze-dried chives I found in the spice aisle.  I think they taste as good as fresh and I don’t have to clean and snip them.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Fine Grater
Medium bowl
Spoon - mixing (2)
Small bowl - beating egg
Fork or Small whisk - beating egg
Shallow dish (3)
Wire rack
Large nonstick skillet
Flexible spatula
Small saucepan with lid
Large spoon

If you are making your own cutlets
  • Plastic wrap
  • Meat mallet

Equipment Notes:
Wire Rack – At face value, I wasn’t sure why a wire rack was needed.  I’m going to guess that they wanted time for the breading to dry on the chicken and didn’t want the chicken to sit in any excess egg to make it soggy.  Since I had perfectly breaded chicken that browned beautifully on both sides, I’m thinking I may use this method every time.

Flexible Spatula – This spatula is still rigid enough to flip meat, but its slight flexibility keeps you from scraping off the breading.  It is also really good with delicate seafood.

(1)  Begin salad dressing:
            (a) Combine juice, vinegar, shallots, salt, and sugar; let stand 15 minutes.

(2)  Make Chicken:
(a) Combine breadcrumbs and cheese in a shallow dish. Place flour in another shallow dish. Place egg white in yet another shallow dish.
(b) Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour; dip in egg white. Dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place chicken on a wire rack; let stand 5 minutes.
(c) Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
            (d) Add chicken; cook 3 minutes. Turn chicken over; cook 2 minutes or until browned and done.

(3)  Finish and toss salad:
(a) Add oil and pepper to shallot mixture; stir with a whisk.
(b) Add greens; toss gently.

(4)  Prepare orzo:
(a) Cook butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat 4 minutes or until browned.
(b) Add orzo; cook 1 minute.
(c) Add white wine; cook over medium-high heat 1 minute.
(d) Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes.
(e) Stir in shredded Parmesan; cover and let stand 5 minutes.
(f) Sprinkle with chives.

(5)  Place 2 chicken cutlets, 1 cup salad and half of the orzo on each of 2 plates. Serve with lemon wedges.

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