During my first years of cooking, I worked primarily with Austrian chefs, as well as with a few German and French chefs. Unlike working with American chefs, with the emphasis on regional American cuisine, I learned the traditional French style of cooking first. There was, as you would expect, a great deal of emphasis on European dishes.
A lot of the dishes served called for using meat cutlets. The meat is cut into portions and then pounded thin. Veal is the most well-known type of meat used, but chicken, pork or beef can also be substituted, especially because of veal’s high price and limited availability.
The first entrée that pops into my mind when thinking of dishes using pounded meat is Wiener Schnitzel. This is simply a pounded portion of thin veal, coated with breadcrumbs and sautéed in brown butter. Served with lemon and lingonberries or cranberry sauce, this is one of my all-time favorite meals. I like to substitute pork tenderloin for the veal; chicken will also work well.
Using the cutlets for your dinner is one way to get your meal fast. The prep is easy and due to the thinness of the meat, it will cook quickly.
Besides Wiener Schnitzel, there are also a host of other schnitzels that call for pounded meat and different toppings and sauces such as an egg, ham and cheese or paprika and cream — to name a few. Replace the brown butter, lemon and cranberry sauce with a tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese and you have the classic Veal Parmesan.
Piccata is another well-known dish that calls for cutlets. The traditional veal piccata is made by seasoning the cutlet and dusting it with flower before sautéing. The meat is removed from the pan and the pan sauce is made with lemon juice, capers, parsley and butter.
Try Chef Smitty’s recipes for Wiener Schnitzel
I worked at an Austrian inn that served the piccata another way. Although I’ve never come across it anywhere else, I’m sure it is served in some of the Italian restaurants in the cities. It is a version of an Italian national dish. In the traditional serving, the piccata is garnished with tongue, ham, mushroom and truffle slices. I will leave that off, but feel free to sauté it up and serve on top of the piccata if you like.
The prep starts off the same — you season and flour the pounded cutlets. The floured cutlet is then dredged in a batter of beaten eggs, lemon juice, parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
Next, fry the battered cutlet in about 1 to 2 inches of oil that has been heated to 350 degrees F in a heavy sauté pan for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden on the bottom. Flip the cutlet and cook another 2 minutes or so until the other side is golden. If the meat is fairly thick still and needs a little more time cooking, place it on a sheet pan, drizzle a little lemon butter on it and finish it in the oven. This piccata is served over risotto or, as in the inn I worked at, over pasta with a good tomato sauce. You would not use the tomato sauce if using risotto.
These are just a few ways to prepare cutlets. Using the cutlets for your dinner is one way to get your meal fast. The prep is easy and due to the thinness of the meat, it will cook quickly. I hope you give the Piccata Milanese a try and enjoy it.
6 pork cutlets, pounded thin
2 eggs, beaten
1 T lemon juice
½ C Parmesan cheese, grated
1½ T parsley, chopped
¼ C flour
2 inches oil in heavy sauté pan, heated to 350 F
Salt & pepper
Pound the cutlets and season with salt and pepper. Coat the meat well with flour, shaking off any excess flour. Combine the eggs, lemon juice, chopped parsley and cheese to make the batter. Dredge the floured cutlet in the batter and fry until golden brown on the bottom.
Flip the cutlet over and fry until the other side is golden. If the cutlets are thick and not quite done, place them on a sheet pan, drizzle a small amount of lemon butter over them and finish in the oven. Serve over linguini with a nice tomato sauce.