One of my fondest memories of my paternal grandmother is the way her home smelled when we went to visit. We lived several miles away from her but any time we visited she spent the entire day preparing all of our favorite meals before our arrival. To her, food was love and she expressed her love for us by cooking for us and serving us.
There were three of us kids and Nanny always made each of our favorites. She has been gone for several years but I can still see her smile and hear her voice ask, “Do you like that, Doll?” as I took that first bite of the bowl of pasta with crab marinara (with lots of grated Parmesan on top) she had placed before me when I walked through the door.
Nanny made each of us feel special by spending time lovingly preparing our favorite dishes, and by making altered versions of some of her specialties to accommodate each individual taste. She never once complained. It made her happy to see us happy. Nanny made the best lasagna. She layered her all-day sauce, pasta, and three kinds of cheeses… oh my mouth is watering! My mom is not a fan of ricotta cheese so my sweet Nanny made her a special pan of lasagna without the ricotta cheese. This act of love was not lost on me.
In addition to making all of our favorite dishes, Nanny and my Aunt Carol always had a big platter of chicken cutlets ready when we visited. There was always a green salad with oil and vinegar dressing and some crusty Italian bread served along side the cutlets. Throughout our visit we could always grab some cutlets and bread and make a quick snack if we needed one. (Uh… as if there wasn’t enough food in the house!)
My upside down salad stems from these memories. Each bite of my chicken cutlets was always topped with a healthy fork full of salad. I love my chicken and salad together. When you order a salad with grilled chicken in restaurants, you typically find the strips of grilled chicken placed on top of the salad. Well, since I like my vinegary salad piled on my chicken, I make mine upside down because that’s the way I like it. I listed my favorite salad ingredients but you can use your own favorites. I didn’t list quantity of salad ingredients because it really is up to you. Use as much or as little as you like.
As I fried up these chicken cutlets last night, the smell of garlic and olive oil filled my kitchen and brought back sweet memories of my Nanny’s kitchen. Isn’t it amazing how a fragrance can bring back a memory?
Upside Down Chicken Cutlet Salad
- Chicken Cutlets (thinly sliced chicken breasts)
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Italian Flavored Breadcrumbs (or Panko Italian Flavored Breadcrumbs)
- Olive oil for skillet
- Mixed greens
- Grape or Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- Cucumber, cut in half and sliced
- Red Onion, quartered and sliced
- Celery, chopped
- Black olives, cut in half lengthwise
- Shredded Parmesan cheese
(Note: My Nanny always used the chicken tenders but, since I like my salad heaped on top, I use either thinly sliced chicken breasts or chicken breasts that I butterfly and then pound thin so they will cover the plate. Feel free to do whatever is easiest for you.)
In a shallow dish, mix the milk into the egg. Pour the breadcrumbs into a separate shallow dish. (Amounts of egg and breadcrumbs depends on the amount of chicken you are cooking. Just eyeball it.)
Heat skillet over medium heat and coat bottom with olive oil. When pan is hot, coat each piece of chicken in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs and then place in the hot skillet. For thin cutlets, it should take only 3 – 4 minutes per side.
Remove cooked cutlets to a rack so they stay crispy. When ready to serve, place chicken on plate and then arrange salad ingredients on top or just to the side of the chicken. Drizzle chicken and salad with vinaigrette and sprinkle with cheese.
Another Note: Feel free to use your favorite vinaigrette with this. If you want to make your own, here is my favorite, all-purpose vinaigrette:
- 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
- 1 teaspoon minced shallot (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Begin with this combination and add garlic, shallots, tarragon, etc according to your taste. The above amounts will easily serve one with a little extra… which is good if you want to serve with crusty Italian bread to sop it up! Simply double, triple, etc. per serving.