Cotoletta alla milanese (Milanesa)

 

We have an embarrassing problem here. When we asked the owners of one of the most famous traditional restaurants in Milano, founded in the late 1700s, they showed us the ancient recipes book they are still following to this day. In its yellowed and frail pages, the cotoletta alla milanese (cutlet as it is prepared in Milano) is a pork cutlet covered by a sort of shell made with sliced potatoes and cooked very gently in the oven for many hours. We did taste it, and it is marvellous.

The unfortunate fact is that nobody else in Italy shares this concept of this famous dish. As a matter of fact, visiting the Basilica di sant’Ambrogio, the original symbol of Milano before the Duomo cathedral was built, you can see with your own eyes a document dated 1148 describing a very different dish. That is what any Italian will recognize as a cotoletta alla milanese: a ribbed cutlet of veal, breaded and fried. It is equally but differently tasty, similar to the German wienerschnitzel or the Japanese tonkatsu, and  there would be no point to teach you the extravagantly difficult recipe for the former version. Please also note that in recent years Italian restaurants tend to serve orecchia d’elefante (literally: ‘elephant’s ear’) in place of cotoletta. This is a very thin slice of meat, beaten so thoroughly that it becomes larger than your dish, then breaded and fried all the same. The problem is that in doing so what you eat is 90% fried bread: there is no chance to actually taste whatever is inside, which is exactly the point of fraudulent restaurateurs substituting expensive veal with pork, chicken or even chicken paste. In other words, demand that your cotoletta has its rib intact – or follow our recipe!

 

Ingredients

 

- 4 veal ribbed cutlets, 3cm high

- 2 eggs

- 200g breadcrumbs, fine

- 200g clarified butter

- Salt

 

Preparation

 

This is a really simple recipe. Begin by cleaning the meat from excess fat and possible bone shards – do not beat it. Beat the eggs instead, in a bowl large enough to allow you to coat both sides of the cutlets. Place the breadcrumbs in a large dish, and use the egg as a “glue” to get the meat completely covered with the crumbs. The best way to do this is to press the cutlets into the breadcrumbs as soon as you take them out of the eggs mix. Melt the clarified butter in a pan and warm it up on a medium fire until it gets of a light brown color and just sizzling. Fry the cutlets on each side until they are nicely golden. Be advised that the butter is only good for one round of frying, so if you are cooking only two cutlets at a time, use half the butter and clean the pan before frying the last two. If you want to be really traditional, save ¾ of a tablespoon of melted butter for each cutlet, to pour it over them as you serve them. If you prefer to be healtier, offer lemon quarters to squeeze their juice on the cutlets. Wrapping tinfoil on the bone “handle” will allow you to better pick the bone itself clean.