Chicken breast cutlets can stretch your dollar in a delicious way

Neil Perry's pan-fried chicken cutlets with lemon and caper sauce and orzo 'risotto'.
Neil Perry's pan-fried chicken cutlets with lemon and caper sauce and orzo 'risotto'. Photo: William Meppem

Sometimes stretching an ingredient – making it feed four instead of two – can be detrimental to a dish, but on rare occasions it can actually make it better. Case in point: pan-fried chicken breasts.

The breast is not my favourite part of the bird – that would be the thighs – but when I find the cut on sale, I pick them up because they are versatile, filling and easily adaptable to different seasoning blends and cooking methods.

Still, the meat can be bland, and often the breasts are too thick for my liking; that's when the stretching comes into play.

Thinly sliced chicken breast fillets carry a higher ratio of spice to meat.
Thinly sliced chicken breast fillets carry a higher ratio of spice to meat. Photo: William Meppem

To make the pieces more palatable and provide a better ratio of meat to seasonings or sauce, especially when simply pan-frying them, I like to turn them into cutlets. A chicken cutlet is simply a breast sliced in half into two thinner pieces. (You can buy cutlets as well, but often buying the unsliced breast is cheaper.)

For DIY cutlets, use a sharp knife to cut horizontally through each breast so the meat opens like butterfly wings. Then, carefully separate the halves. Remove any visible fat or sinew. Then, if you want them even thinner, place each cutlet between two pieces of baking paper and use a meat tenderiser, heavy-based frypan or cast-iron skillet to pound each cutlet to desired thickness. I usually like about half a centimetre.

Once you've created your cutlets, they will cook quickly in a saute pan with olive oil and a few shakes of your favourite seasoning blend. Another option is to use them to make chicken parmigiana, or you can fill them with cheese, greens and seasoning and roll them into mini roulades to then pan-fry or bake.

Chicken cutlets are perfect for parmigiana.
Chicken cutlets are perfect for parmigiana. Photo: Marcel Aucar

Or you can do a variation on chicken schnitzel, which is my absolute favourite way to eat them.

For a super-thin crust, simply dust the pieces with a thin layer of seasoned flour. If you want a thicker crust, dip the cutlet into an egg wash and then into the flour. For an even crunchier crust, dip them in egg and press them into a mixture of seasoned flour, panko and grated parmesan.

To finish, fry the battered cutlets in a small amount of butter or olive oil in a frying pan until they are browned and cooked through. It should take less than 10 minutes in the pan. When I make them with the panko and grated cheese, I can eat them straight from the pan, with a grating of fresh black pepper and a squeeze of lemon. So good. 

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If I've got a good sauce, then the dusting of flour is all I want. (Try RecipeTin Eats' creamy mushroom sauce, see video below.)

The Washington Post

More chicken cutlet recipe ideas