A tender veal cutlet coated in crunchy breadcrumbs fried in butter, Cotoletta alla Milanese is one of the signature dishes of Milan, the style and design capital of Italy. Also referred to as Veal Milanese, you may already know a certain version of this already – and also how irresistible it can be! Here, discover the tricks to recreate the original veal Milanese at home with our recipe that is a nod to tradition, while learning a couple of things on how it came to be (it goes way back to the year 1148). Serve it alongside a Sanpellegrino Limonata or shake up a Lemor Mix mocktail and let the flavours of this classic Lombardy dish seduce you by the mouthful!
Cotoletta alla Milanese, is one of the most well known dishes of the Lombardy cuisine, and can be found everywhere in the city of Milan – from a Michelin-starred restaurant, to your common café selling quick lunches, you are bound to find a crumbed veal cutlet in some shape or form. On its origins, many historians point to the year 1148, citing the mention of the “lombolos cum panitio” (referring to what is now widely known as cotoletta alla Milanese) in an ancient menu of the monks at Milan’s Sant’Ambrogio Basilica. Great Italian philosopher, economist and historian Pietro Verri (1728-1797) is seen as the first person to speak of the menu, which he does in his book, History of Milan (1783). It is considered the first official reference to the menu of the monks, and hence the famous veal cutlet straight from the heart of Milan.
Some like their veal Milanese thin and crunchy, some like them thick and juicy; some call for a cutlet with the bone-in, and some, boneless. Whilst personal preferences can call for many different ways to prepare this simple dish, the traditional veal Milanese recipe makes use of a bone-in, thickly sliced tender meat that is breaded and fried in butter.
Clarified butter has a higher smoke point than regular butter and lends a wonderful flavour to the crumb, but regular butter can be substituted in its place if you can’t find the former. Purists may also ask for the melted butter to be poured over the cutlet before being served, but if you like to keep your Cotoletta alla Milanese on the lighter side, give it the modern twist – skip the dousing of butter and serve it with a wedge of lemon instead.
1. Using a sharp knife, remove any small side bones from the cutlets. Trim away excess fat and make small nicks around the edges of the meat to prevent them from curling up as they cook. Taking the bone as a reference, use a meat tenderiser to lightly even out the thickness – do not pound thin.
2. Whisk the eggs in a bowl, season with salt.
3. Pass each cutlet in the flour, then in the eggs, then in the breadcrumbs, pressing with your hands to make the breadcrumbs adhere to the cutlet as much as possible. Do this right to prevent the crumb falling off the meat while cooking. Repeat for all cutlets.
4. Melt the clarified butter in a frying pan over high heat. Fry the cutlets until golden brown, about 4 minutes each side.
5. Transfer to paper towels to drain any excess fat. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.
One popular variation of the Cotoletta alla Milanese is called the oreggia d'elefant, orecchio d'elefante, "the elephant ear," and uses a thinner but larger cut of boneless meat. Not strictly traditional, but a thinner cut will mean faster and more even cooking. Some veal Milanese experts also argue that the higher ratio of breadcrumbs and butter to meat on a thinner cut compared to a thicker meat can easily hide the flavour of an inferior cut of meat – or it can just be a matter of personal preference. Try them both and judge for yourselves!