Italian Recipes

Breaded rooster chops with tomatoes and arugula

June 22, 2022

You know that one recipe you can make with your eyes closed because you’ve made it so many times? The dish that always gets rave reviews? Well, this is mine. There’s nothing fancy about it – most of the prep can actually be completed ahead of time – but it’s really visually appealing and downright delicious. Also, the tried-and-true combination of crispy, golden-brown chicken chops, ripe cherry tomatoes, and peppery arugula takes just 45 minutes from start to finish. It’s only recently that I’ve started adding blue cheese crumbles to these chops as well, and I have to say the blue cheese is a game changer!

This dish actually evolved after living in Milan, Italy. My favorite dish at the time was Cotoletta alla Milanese, a slice of bone-in veal loin that is beaten thin, breaded and fried in butter. It is a typical dish of the Lombardy region, most likely descended from Wiener Schnitzel. In the warmer months, many restaurants also top this dish with a tasty tomato salad; I found the combination of crispy tender cutlets and juicy tomatoes intoxicating. When I returned to North America, I did my best to try to replicate it, but finding bone-in veal chops anywhere was virtually impossible, and it just didn’t work well with veal clams. I ultimately settled on boneless breaded chicken breasts topped with tomatoes and arugula, and I’ve been making it the same way ever since.

What makes this dish special is the homemade mix of breadcrumbs seasoned with pecorino cheese, lemon zest, chilli, parsley, salt and pepper. I’ve been making my own breadcrumbs for years, and it really is a great way to use up yesterday’s bread. If I have some stale bread on hand, I just cut it up into cubes and store them in bags in the freezer. When I need breadcrumbs, I throw some of the frozen bread cubes in my food processor and pulse until finely chopped. You want a bit of texture, but you also want crumbs small enough to use as breading. Once my crumbs are the right size, I toss in my favorite condiments and pulse until combined. If you can’t or don’t want to make your own breadcrumbs, panko crumbs are the best alternative.

I know it may sound redundant that I keep preaching about fresh, seasonal ingredients, but that’s really what makes Italian food so good. The tomatoes used in this recipe should be very fresh and sweet, and the arugula should be crisp and peppery. I season the tomato mixture with some minced garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, then serve sprinkled with blue cheese crumbles.

Enjoy your meal!
Deborah Mele Revised 2022

ingredients

  • 4 cups stale bread cubes

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest and 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon

  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chopped hot red chilli (optional)

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 large eggs

  • 8 chicken chops, about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds total, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness (see note)

  • 4 cups ripe cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 7 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 4 cups washed and dried fresh arugula

  • Lemon wedges for serving

  • 3/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

instructions

  1. For the chops, place the bread cubes, lemon zest, chilli, parsley, grated cheese, salt and pepper in the food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Add the pine nuts and pulse until the nuts are coarsely chopped and transfer the mixture to a shallow bowl.
  3. Put the flour in a plastic bag and season with salt and pepper. In a separate shallow bowl, beat the eggs. Work 1 chop at a time, dredge in flour, then dip in eggs and finally press down on the breadcrumbs with your fingertips to help the crumbs stick.
  4. Place the breaded chops on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the crumb layer to set.
  5. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and mix well, then set aside until needed.
  6. Set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. While the oven is preheating, set the chop sheet to room temperature. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and spread the butter and 4 tablespoons olive oil on each. Place the sheets in the oven until the butter has melted, about 5 minutes.
  7. Divide the chicken chops between the two baking sheets and cook until golden brown on the underside, about 15 minutes. Flip the chops, return to the oven and bake 10 to 12 minutes longer, until golden brown on the second side.
  8. Place the chicken on a platter and arrange the arugula on top. Pour the tomato mixture over the arugula, sprinkle with the blue cheese and serve immediately with the lemon wedges.

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