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Chicken Milanese

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Serves 4

Crunchy breaded chicken hidden under a mountain of tart salad is just the kind of thing I want to eat on a warm summer night. Perhaps you agree.

These don't take long to make, but if you have some extra time, make extra chicken breasts so you'll have them in the refrigerator for sandwiches.

If you don't have summer tomatoes, skip the tomatoes altogether. You want flavor.

For the chicken
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino
¼ cup milk
About 1½ cups dried bread crumbs
Olive oil, for frying


For the salad
4 big handfuls arugula
2 ripe summer tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
1 small red onion, sliced thin
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste


For the chicken
Cut the breasts into halves, and trim away any cartilage or visible fat. Lay the chicken pieces out on plastic wrap, cover with another sheet of plastic, and pound to about 1/3 inch thick. If you don't have a classic meat pounder, use a rolling pin.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Set out three shallow bowls. Put the flour in one; beat the eggs in the second, then beat in the Pecorino and milk; and put the bread crumbs in the third. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and pat them, so you have just a thin dusting of flour. Then dip in the egg wash and dangle the chicken over the bowl to let the excess drip off. Finally, coat the chicken in the crumbs, pressing well to get a good coating. As you finish breading, put the chicken on a rack. You can prep the chicken this far a few hours in advance. Set the rack on a baking sheet, cover loosely with wax paper, and refrigerate.

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and fill with about 1/3 inch oil. Heat until the oil is shimmering. Fry the chicken 2 pieces at a time — no crowding — until golden brown on each side, and drain on another rack set over a baking sheet.

For the salad
Rip the arugula into pieces and drop them into a mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes and onion and spoon on the extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss to get the salad coated with oil. Spoon on the vinegar and toss again. Taste a bit of the arugula and add more vinegar if you want.

To serve, put a chicken cutlet in the center of each dinner plate and top with a big heap of salad.

Variations
The classic preparation is with a veal chop. You could substitute veal cutlets or pork chops — with or without bones — for the chicken.





Chocolate Whipped Cream Cake

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Makes one 8-inch layer cake

Imagine the best Yankee Doodle possible. Imagine one of the easiest cakes possible. No creaming butter and sugar: just whip cream, add eggs and the dry ingredients, and you've got cake!

1¼ cups cake flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

Pour 1 cup of the cream into a mixing bowl, add the espresso powder, and beat to stiff peaks with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the sugar and honey. Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined and smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Divide the batter between the baking pans, and give the pans a rap on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes for 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out with just a crumb or two.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes or so; they'll fall a little (don't worry about it). Then turn the cakes out of the pans, peel off the parchment, and let cool completely on the racks.

Whip the remaining 1 cup cream to stiff peaks. Put one of the cake layers on a serving plate. Spread with half the whipped cream. Top with the other layer and the rest of the whipped cream. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve the cake. I think this cake is best eaten within a day.

Note: If you've got some cherries preserved in brandy hanging around, spoon some of the brandy over the cake before you spread on the whipped cream, and top each layer with some of the cherries.





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