Thursday, October 28, 2010

author guest post: melissa senate

Author of The Love Goddess' Cooking School (and many other fantastic titles), Melissa Senate shares her favorite recipe from the novel!

My favorite recipe from The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

When my now eight-year-old son was two, I read my first article/book/website on the infamous “picky-eater.” The toddler who’ll eat Cheerios and bites of grilled cheese and that’s about it. I followed all the advice, and still my dear little Max would not eat anything green, would not eat fish or meat, no matter how delicious, no matter if his steak and green beans and mashed potatoes were made into the shape of a smiley face. Still, he’s always loved to cook with me—his basic favorites, from bacon and Swiss cheese omelets to his beloved chicken fingers. So when I was researching recipes that I wanted to include in The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, I appointed Max my apprentice, handed him an apron, and we set to work on the first recipe I needed to master along with Holly, my main character: chicken alla Milanese. “I don’t have to actually eat it, right, Mommy?” he said at least three times during the dipping of the chicken cutlets into egg, the laying of the chicken into flour and polenta, the placing in the hot pan.

Chicken alla Milanese is the signature dish of The Love Goddess Cooking School. It’s taught in the very first class of Camilla’s Cucinotta’s Italian cooking class in the apricot-colored cottage at the edge of Blue Crab Island, Maine. Chicken alla Milanese is representative to me of everything so deliciously basic, deliciously perfect about classic Italian food. “I’d like you take one tiny bite,” I told Max who was eyeing the sizzling chicken with suspicion, despite his pride at helping. “One bite and that’s it,” he said, adding, “It does smell good, Mommy.”

One bite and he’d be hooked. I knew it. And I knew that one bite of chicken alla Milanese would open up a whole new world of unplain food, simple food with flavor, rich with place.

My first attempt at chicken alla Milanese wasn’t perfect (as my fourth attempt was, which had to do with how long it cooked and heat, individual stove dependent). But as we sat down in my Tuscan-inspired kitchen in our country kitchen in Maine, Max eyed his one bite of chicken alla Milanese and very slowly put it into his mouth. “Mmm! Mmmmm!” was what he said. “This is so good! Can I have more?”

Since that day, Max has tried my spaghetti Bolognese, which is the main character’s master dish. He’s tried risotto and lasagna (which he’d never try before, crazy kid). And suddenly, he’s opened up that stubborn mind and stomach about eating more than just grilled cheese and chicken fingers. It’s thanks to the fun of cooking together and one very simple, delicious recipe. If you try Camilla’s Cucinotta’s chicken alla Milanese, I hope you love it too.

Camilla’ Cucinotta Chicken alla Milanese

4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup instant polenta
¾ cup grated parmigiano-regianno cheese
2 cups flour
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
One wish

Pound chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap. On a plate, combine polenta with half the cheese. Fill another plate with flour. In bowl, beat egg with splash of water. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Coat each breast in flour, then egg, then cheese/polenta. Add one wish. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning once, six minutes on each side or until golden. Enjoy!

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