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Cotoletta is an Italian dish with numerous variations that typically consists of a veal cutlet that is flattened, covered in bread crumbs, and shallow fried in oil or butter. There are many ways in which this dish can be prepared, with variations on the name indicating changes in preparation. Some of these changes include whether or not the cutlet includes a bone, what is used to bread the cutlet, and how the cutlet is cooked. Cotoletta is especially popular in Milanese cuisine, though it is commonly served in many Italian restaurants and resembles other dishes such as Wiener schnitzel.
Many variations of cotoletta exist, such as alla milanese for Milanese versions and alla palermitana for a type popular in Palermo. In general, however, cotoletta typically begins with a veal cutlet, which is usually taken from the rib area. Unlike many other dishes that use cutlets in their preparation, cotoletta is usually prepared with the rib bone left in. This bone is the source of the name for this dish, which comes from the Latin word for “rib.” The Latin origin is also the source of the Old French word costelette from which the word “cutlet” is derived.
Preparation of cotoletta can vary quite a bit, though the veal cutlet is typically pounded somewhat flat, or slightly flattened by the chef between the palms of his or her hands. Once at the desired thickness, the cutlet is coated in breadcrumbs prior to frying or grilling. Some recipes call for the cutlet to be dredged through egg and flour before the breadcrumb coating, though this is not always necessary. The use of flour is, in fact, not traditional and most recipes will often use only egg and breadcrumbs.
Breadcrumbs used to coat the cotoletta should be fresh whenever possible, and may be combined with other ingredients. It is fairly common for the breadcrumbs to be mixed with diced herbs, such as oregano, basil, or parsley, and freshly grated parmesan or parmigiano reggiano. Once the cutlet is coated in the breadcrumbs, it is either grilled or lightly fried, which is usually done as a shallow fry in butter, olive oil, or lard. When butter is used, which is quite common in the Milanese variation of cotoletta, the remaining butter in the skillet is typically poured over the cutlet after plating.