Recipe: Chicken Cutlets with Chanterelle and Chicory Salad
Finferli. I first heard this word in Sicily, in the Madonie mountain area where my husband, Fred, and I were staying on our first trip to that fantastic island, around 1990. Women were foraging in the woods for finferli. I took a look in their baskets and recognized the peachy colored mushrooms as chanterelles. I believe they were the exact same chanterelles that farmers in Phoenicia, New York, were searching for last weekend under trailers and abandoned trucks along Route 42, and finding tons of them. I bought a big bag from the guy who runs a 24-hour farm stand near there, ones he had foraged himself the evening before. First I made them with penne. Second go-round I highlighted them in a main course of chicken cutlets. Okay, I know, chicken cutlets can be boring, but not when you finish them off with a handful of local, almost-just-picked finferli.
Breaded and fried chicken cutlets were an oft-repeated midweek meal when I was a kid, made various ways. The Parmigiano treatment was big with my father, but not my favorite (I don’t like mozzarella and chicken together–seems like two bland elements blending together a bit too well). Chicken cutlets with a little pan sauce of capers and white wine drizzled over the top was excellent. But my favorite approach, until I made this recipe here, was eating them greasy and hot out of the pan with a squirt of lemon and one of my mother’s bitter-edged salads, usually arugula or chicory. Nothing could be finer. Hey, no tomatoes. That seemed very elegant at the time.
My mother usually did an easy breadcrumb coating with a little grated pecorino mixed in, forgoing the full-on flour-and-egg-and-crumbs treatment, so they were crisp but not encased in armor.
I find that a crisp, tender chicken cutlet always needs some acid. Lemon is good. Wine is good. Mustard and lemon are even better, just to dress the salad, but I didn’t use so much that they overpowered the chanterelles. That is important, of course, for a good flavor balance, but the most important thing of all when preparing chicken cutlets, all-important, is not to overcook them. Get them brown over high heat, flip them, let them brown lightly on the second side, and then get them the hell out of the pan.
Chicken Cutlets with Chanterelle and Chicory Salad
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 small summer onion, thinly sliced, using some of the tender green stalk if available
About 15 chanterelles, cut in half if large
Freshly ground black pepper
The leaves from 6 thyme sprigs
A splash of cognac
2 summer garlic cloves, smashed
The juice from ½ lemon
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 chicken cutlets, pounded thin
½ cup homemade dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated grana Padano cheese
2 handfuls of chicory or frisée lettuce, torn into smallish pieces
2 lemon wedges
In a medium skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and the chanterelles, and sauté until the mushrooms just start to soften and give off a sweet aroma, about 4 minutes. Season with salt, black pepper, and the thyme. Add a splash of cognac and stand back so you don’t singe your eyebrows. When the flame subsides, turn off the heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic clove, lemon juice, mustard, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon or mustard if needed.
Mix the breadcrumbs and grana Padano together on a plate, seasoning with salt and black pepper. Dredge the cutlets in the crumbs.
Set out two dinner plates.
Place the chicory or frisée in a small salad bowl, and pour on about ¾ of the dressing, giving it a quick toss.
In a large skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. When hot, add the chicken cutlets, and brown them quickly on one side, about 1½ to 2 minutes. Give them a flip, and get some color on the other side, about 30 seconds. Pull the cutlets from the skillet, and place two on each dinner plate.
Top with the chicory salad. Quickly reheat the chanterelles if necessary, and scatter them over the salads. Drizzle the remaining dressing on top of the mushrooms. Garnish with lemon wedges, and serve right away.