|A Recipe for Baked Chicken Milanese with Spinach Salad|
Enjoy the little things,
for one day you may look back and realize
they were the big things.
- Robert Brault
Like most middle-aged Canadians, I was raised in an era when “convenience foods” surpassed “homemade.” (Never mind that our Italian neighbours were making their own salami's and wine and growing everything they needed in their gardens... and feeding the entire neighbourhood as well I might add). Our own lives growing up were just not like that.
There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with convenience as a way of cooking. Doesn't macaroni and cheese come out of a box? A box of instant fettucini alfredo was a quick and convenient way to add a quick dinner to the table. Tasty enough, creamy, and salty. It would curb your craving for something more substantial and cure your pangs of hunger. Throw together a quick salad, add a bottled salad dressing and you’ve got yourself a nice meal...at least in the day.
As time marches on your body tells you that you need to simplify your lifestyle and move away from the convenience foods. It will rebel in your middle years and all those prepared and packaged dinners from a can, box or freezer will accumulate on your hips..not to mention all the preservatives and additional salt!!!!!But I will get off my soap box now as in my adult life I have never cooked with convenience foods. (But...shhhh.... I do make cakes from a boxed mix...our little secret). It is so easy to prepare healthy, quick and delicious meals there is no need to make convenience foods your meals of choice.
The other influencing factor in our lives has come from society as a whole. Slowly, we are becoming a nation of foodies. Our grocers and markets are making it easier for us to shop with our health in mind as we as consumers demand high quality and less packaging. Finding the freshest ingredients has became the trendy thing to do. Words like “artisanal” and “locally sourced” have creeped into our day-to-day conversation. We have all heard of the 100-Mile Diet, Slow-Food, and being a "locavore". Eating simply does not mean giving up taste, it just means preparing uncomplicated and purer flavours.
With the holiday season upon us it is understandably harder to simplify our eating habits, with rich sauces, gravies, chocolate and butter calling us at every turn. But then again why do we need to.We poke, we prod and we are determined to prepare meals fit for kings and queens. The old saying "everything in moderation" has never rung so true as it does during the holidays. The holiday season is a time of excess, at least in food, so why not go for it and and serve the best we can. What we CAN do is to simplify our day to day meals... besides who has time to make elaborate gourmet meals each and every day during the holidays...unless you are a caterer and do it for a living.
This is where this simple and tasty oven baked chicken dish comes in. Chicken Milanese (literally, chicken in the style of Milan) is a chicken breast that has been butterflied and lightly flattened out, dipped in beaten egg, then into breadcrumbs and fried in butter. In the spirit of "lightening up" our dishes and making them healthier in this rendition you toast the breadcrumbs in the oven for extra flavour and then bake the chicken instead of frying. This superb dish is super-easy to make and packed with flavor. The breading is so light and so melt in your mouth good and makes the meat moist and tender. It's one of my favorite quick meals for a weeknight. Yes you use several dishes when constructing this meal but throw them in the dishwasher and turn it on! Add a light, fresh dressing of lemon juice and olive oil to your greens, top with shaved Parmesan and voila... another one bites the dust!!!!
** Baked Chicken Milanese with Spinach Salad**
1 1/4 cups plain dried breadcrumbs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/3 cup flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
course salt and ground pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges, for serving
5 ounces baby arugula or spinach
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
shaved Parmesan cheese curls for garnish
Preheat oven to 425F.
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup oil until well combined; spread on sheet. Bake, tossing once, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Depending on the temperature of your oven there comes a point where you need to watch them carefully. Transfer to a medium bowl. Place flour and eggs in separate bowls; season with salt and pepper. Place a rack on another rimmed baking sheet.
One at a time, place chicken breasts between two large pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or bottom of a small heavy pan, pound until 1/2 inch thick. Coat chicken on both sides with flour (shaking off excess), then dip in eggs (allowing excess to drip off); dredge in breadcrumbs, pressing firmly to adhere.
Bake chicken on rack, without turning, until opaque throughout, 10 to 15 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons oil and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Add spinach or arugula and onion; toss. Top chicken with salad; serve with lemon wedges on the side.Top salad with shaved Parmesan and serve! The photo above is naked of Parmesan. What can I say I was in a hurry and forgot to add it for the photo opportunity...but it really adds that extra bit of flavour needed for this dish and adds an element of beauty as well.