Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gwyneth's Chicken Milanese

For my birthday, my sister sent me Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook, "My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness" and I've been obsessed with it since it arrived.  From the loving forward by Mario Batali, to the Gwyneth's introduction where she so warmly captures her affection for her family, to recipe after delectable recipe, this cookbook is a winner.   I've earmarked dozens of recipes I want to make immediately, many of them simple Asian or Italian-inspired dishes that look perfect for a weeknight. 

While I'm no willowy blonde movie star, I feel a kinship with Gwyneth in reading her book:  she's a busy, working mom with a foodie palate, an organic obsession, health nut tendencies offset by an appreciation for decadence, and a true love of cooking that comes through on every page.  I'm dying to make her Indian-spiced tuna steaks, vegetable paella, sole a la Grenobloise, and every single recipe in the baking section, but I kicked off my Gwyneth kitchen extravaganza with her recipe for Chicken Milanese.
To be honest, I picked this recipe primarily because I was in the mood to beat the hell out of a few pieces of chicken.  I don't know how I've come this far in my culinary life without realizing the sheer joy of wielding a meat tenderizer in the evening hours.  Whatever you've been through during any given weekday, once you have pounded four chicken breasts until they are 1/6 of an inch thick, you miraculously feel better!  I'm also married to an Italian with an affinity for chicken, and therefore can't believe I've come this far without having breaded chicken in our regular rotation.  Chicken Milanese is the world's perfect comfort food.
This is one of those recipes that comes together very quickly, so your best chance at being successful rests upon reading the recipe all the way through, being prepared, and making an assembly line to prep.
Gwyneth totally cooks in her sweats, right?
Gwynnie offers four different topping options for the Chicken Milanese, and the one that was most appealing to me in the blustery fall weather featured roasted tomatoes and arugula.  The roasting process brings out the best of the sweetness in the cherry tomatoes and tossing them with the arugula wilts it slightly, making the most incredible sweet, peppery, savory topping for the crunchy, warm chicken.  We absolutely loved this dish, and I would even dare to call it a weeknight meal.  Chicken Milanese just earned itself a regular spot in our meal plan.  Kiddies love it too. 

Mock her if you must, but I love me some Gwynnie, and I adore this cookbook to no end.  You'll see many more recipe inspirations from it here, and I'd bump it right to the top of your holiday gift list, both for giving and getting.

Chicken Milanese with Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula
Adapted from My Father's Daughter, by Gwyneth Paltrow
For the Chicken Milanese:
4 skinless, free-range, organic boneless chicken breasts, washed and thoroughly dried
1 cup milk
2 cups Japanese panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Tomatoes and Arugula:
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse salt
2 cups wild arugula
1 tablespoon high-quality balsamic vinegar

For the Chicken Milanese:
Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of baking parchment paper. Using a mallet, pound the chicken breasts until they're very, very thin--you should be able to almost see through them--about 1/16-inch thick. Put the milk in a shallow bowl and the bread crumbs on a large plate. Dip each piece of chicken into the milk and then dredge it in the bread crumbs, tapping off the excess. You should have a thin, even coating.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet big enough to hold 2 pieces of chicken in a single layer. Cook for about 4 minutes on the first side, or until evenly browned and crisp. Flip and cook for an additional 2 or 3 minutes, or until the other side is browned and crisp and the chicken is firm to the touch. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and the remaining 2 pieces of chicken.

For the Tomatoes and Arugula:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the tomatoes in a small baking pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they're split and blistered and super sweet.

While the chicken is cooking, toss the arugula with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Fold the tomatoes into the arugula.

Place one piece of chicken on each of four dinner plates and mound a handful of arugula over each piece, making sure everyone gets plenty of tomatoes.

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