Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
As summer winds down, it’s time to take advantage of the final stretch of tomato season. When these fruits are in their prime, I prefer to dress them up with simple ingredients that complement rather than compete—think garlic, olive oil and another summertime staple, basil. A bit of red onion can be a nice addition too, bringing some bite to the flavor profile.
In the ever-popular Italian dish bruschetta, toasted and garlic-rubbed bread is often topped with a version of this mixture. But here the tomatoes accompany crispy chicken cutlets that have been shallow-fried in a skillet, a method that’s less messy and arguably a little healthier than a full-on deep fry.
The juicy topping is the perfect partner for chicken breast, a cut notorious for easily becoming too dry. The golden crust that comes from dipping the cutlets in flour, egg and breadcrumbs before cooking helps further seal in moisture. You can buy standard chicken breasts and thin them out yourself with a meat pounder, but store-bought cutlets save time and are more likely to be evenly pounded, so you don’t have to stress about making the chicken too thin with one whack too many.
For the tomatoes, hit up your local farmers market if there’s one nearby and look for ones that are very well-ripened and heavy for their size. To keep the topping from getting watery, the tomatoes are diced and drained in a colander, with a sprinkle of salt to help draw out more water in a relatively short amount of time. If you can start meal prep early and give the tomatoes an extra hour or so to drain, definitely do that. (I like to save the tomato water, especially during these late-summer months when it’s extra vibrant. It’s delicious straight over ice but there are so many ways to repurpose it, from whisking it into a vinaigrette to making a quick cocktail with vodka, lemon and a pinch of salt.) When mixing in the rest of the ingredients, use high-quality olive oil. The good stuff really makes a difference when you’re not cooking with it and the flavor can shine.
If you’re eating the cutlet immediately, you can top it with the tomatoes, but otherwise, serve the mixture alongside so the liquids don’t mess with the crunch of the chicken. Either way, you’ll get to enjoy a pleasing contrast of the warm chicken with the cool, juicy tomatoes. If there’s any tomato mixture left over or you feel compelled to make extra, it’ll keep well in the fridge for a day or two for spooning onto crackers (or making bruschetta!) as a snack. I’ve also reduced it for 10 to 15 minutes on the stove and added some grated parmesan to make a quick pasta sauce that maintains a distinct freshness.
For the wine pairing, I sought out a selection with substantial acidity to stand up to the high acid of tomatoes, but enough body to match the breaded cutlet. This led me to Lambrusco, the slightly effervescent and typically very affordable red from Italy. At 89 points and $20, Lini Oreste & Figli Lambrusco dell'Emilia In Correggio Scuro 910 NV is a particularly good deal. Serve chilled and expect tangy, candied notes of dark fruits with elements of herb and spice.
Crispy Chicken with Tomato Topping
Pair with a Lambrusco such as Lini Oreste & Figli Lambrusco dell'Emilia In Correggio Scuro 910 NV (89 points, $20).
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25
- 1 pound medium to large tomatoes such as beefsteak, diced
- Salt (plus a flaky salt such as Maldon, if desired)
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 chicken breast cutlets, 3 to 4 ounces each
- Black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1/8 cup minced red onion from 1 small onion
- 5 large basil leaves or 10 small ones, chiffonaded
1. Place the tomatoes in a colander set in the sink or over a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let sit while you prepare the chicken.
2. Set up your dredging station: Add flour to a shallow bowl or rimmed plate, an egg whisked with a splash of water to another and breadcrumbs to the third.
3. Add olive oil to a large skillet so it covers the bottom (likely 2 to 4 tablespoons, depending on size) and heat over medium for about 3 minutes. The oil should be shimmering. Meanwhile, season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
4. Ideally working in batches of two, depending on the size of your pan, coat each chicken cutlet in the flour, then the egg wash and then breadcrumbs, lightly shaking off the excess in between, and add them to the hot oil. Fry the cutlets until the underside is deeply golden and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes, then flip and fry until the other side is deeply golden too, 3 to 5 minutes. You can use an offset spatula to peek underneath and check on the browning. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels or to a wire rack set over a baking pan to drain. Sprinkle immediately with salt, preferably flaky salt.
5. Add drained tomatoes to a medium bowl, saving the tomato water for later use or discarding it. Stir in 3 tablespoons of high-quality olive oil, grate in the garlic and stir in minced red onions. Taste and season with pepper and additional salt, if desired, and gently fold in the basil. Place a cutlet on each plate and serve with the tomatoes. Serves 4.