Another wave of homesickness came over me and as you know, this isn’t the first time it has happened, so I’m better equipped to handle the situation. One of my favorite remedies for homesickness is to pull up iTunes and press play on Lou Monte’s Italian Children’s album (I have my Nana & Grampa’s actual record at the condo which I play when I’m home). I put the cast iron skillet on the stove, grab the extra virgin olive oil from the cabinet and start our family ritual of making chicken cutlets. I’ve been eating these cutlets for as long as I can remember and in Boston, my dad cooks them weekly. I’ve been known to devour the leftover for days afterwards…except of course when my brother eats them all in the wee hours of the night.
As soon as “Pepino the Italian Mouse” starts to play and my oil heats up, I’m already comforted by the familiar smells and sounds. I picture myself three years old wearing my miniature apron, handmade by my Nana, (that I still have thanks to Mom) and jumping up on the step-stool at the kitchen counter. Lou Monte was playing in the back room and Nana was showing me how to crack eggs while she took off her rings (she always insisted on taking off her rings before she cooked). Nana would call me “Jenny the Cop” or “Jenn-a-fa” in her comforting Boston accent. At the time, I mimicked all the accents I heard and at times, I had quite the Boston accent for a little girl living in the suburbs.
Cooking with my family has always been an event in itself. It wasn’t unusual to have a big family meal most days and nights with Nana or Grampa (from Mom & Dad’s side). Moving away from home has made me appreciate family and food even more (if that’s even possible) and not to take any batch of chicken cutlets for granted.
Chicken cutlets aren’t just food for the body, but food for the soul. The smells, sounds and tastes of the entire cooking and eating experience transport us to a moment in time when all five senses were sated. It’s a place in time full of nostalgia with a history of moments kept alive, while at the same time, creating additional memories for yourself and future generations. I hope this
recipe formula brings you to the happy place it always brings me. Invite the whole family to participate and contribute whether your kids need step-stools to reach the kitchen counter, or if you need a step stool to reach your kids.
This is more of a formula and less of a recipe. Serves 4 with extra for leftovers.
- 4 pounds Chicken Cutlets, free-range, hormone free and pounded thin
- 3-5 eggs
- 2+ cups Italian Breadcrumbs (do not substitute plain breadcrumbs)
- 1 bunch Parsley, fresh
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Brown Paper Bags
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs vigorously for 1-2 minutes until completely incorporated and add salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, place the breadcrumbs. Chop finely half of the parsley and add to the breadcrumbs. Add 1/2 inch of olive oil into a cast iron pan and heat over medium-high heat. Using a fork, dip each chicken cutlet into the egg mixture and then dip the chicken into the breadcrumb mixture. Be sure to completely coat the chicken with breadcrumbs. Add more eggs or breadcrumbs if necessary depending on the amount of chicken. Put the breaded chicken cutlets on a plate and repeat with the remaining cutlets.
When the oil becomes hot (the oil will start to shimmer), add the chicken cutlets to the oil. Be careful not splash the oil or over-crowd the pan. Add a few parsley leaves and stems to the oil while you are frying the chicken for added flavor. Fry the chicken 2-3 minutes per side or until deep golden brown. Additional oil will need to be added to the pan after a few batches of cooking the cutlets. When the chicken cutlets are done, let them drain on a brown paper bag (traditional family method), paper towels (last resort), or baking drying rack with paper towels or brown paper bag underneath (more professional method). Add a sprinkle of salt immediately after the cutlets come out of the oil.
My Nana and Grampa always served this with a mash of broccoli, potatoes, garlic and olive oil (incredible but a different post).
The Necessities: Olive Oil, Breadcrumbs and Brown Paper Bag
My Daddy, assuming his regular position at the stove