Chicken Cutlets with a Swiss Cheese Crust is a tasty fried chicken dish suitable for weeknight cooking. The whole chicken and cheese thing isn’t normally appealing to me, but I had been craving fried chicken like crazy when I came across this recipe. I was also looking for an opportunity to use my new meat mallet, which I picked up for a song on Amazon and hadn’t had an opportunity to use. But what tipped me over the edge was that this chicken recipe might be good enough to win over the chicken skeptics in my household. For most of the last two decades I’ve had one or more children at home who dislike chicken. They’ll have fried chicken or wings or the occasional chicken nuggets, but the usual baked chicken dinners or stir-fries that grace many American tables were never really a thing in our house. From both a budgetary and nutrition perspective this is challenging: There are few better and more affordable sources of lean protein than a baked chicken breast. The child who is most anti-chicken is currently living away from home. giving me ample opportunity to dabble with and (hopefully) perfect a weeknight chicken dinner.
I found this recipe in a 1987 fundraiser cookbook from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska. The recipe was contributed by a single woman in her mid-30s who, as of this writing, is recently retired and still living. While her mother is well-represented in most chapters in the cookbook, Chicken Cutlets with a Swiss Cheese Crust appears to be this woman’s only contribution. Judging from this one recipe, she is not her mother’s daughter. Her mother cooks with a traditional mid-century style: stews with rich gravies, casseroles made from canned soup. That sort of thing. The daughter’s Chicken Cutlets recipe is more like a mid-80s Good Housekeeping recipe: not particularly innovative or avant garde, but certainly a step removed from casseroles.
The recipe as written is supposed to serve four, but ended up making a heroic amount of food. I chalk this up, in part, to the gargantuan chicken breasts that populate twenty-first century meat departments. I intentionally chose the smallest breasts I could find and still ended up creating way-too-big portions for my family, and we’re not exactly dainty eaters. Most folks might consider slicing the chicken into two thin breast pieces before pounding flat, or simply cutting the cooked cutlets in half before serving. A 6 ounce piece of chicken breast should be sufficient for a single serving. Be forewarned also that the cutlets will need to be fried in batches, which dramatically alters the time in the kitchen if you’re cooking for a large crew. Each batch takes 8-10 minutes to cook, and the cutlets I ended up with were so big my cast iron skillet could only fit one at a time.
I made a few adjustments to the recipe. The first was to substitute Swiss cheese for Gruyère, which is technically a Swiss cheese but not the Swiss cheese that Americans are accustomed to. Gruyère has a similar flavor profile as hole-y Swiss cheese and melts a little bit easier. It’s also easier to find a good quality Gruyère, whereas Swiss is often only available in mass market brands or sliced at the deli counter. I also changed up the components of the crust, switching out the flour in the breading with a 50/50 mix of rice flour and all-purpose wheat flour, a trick I stole from Japanese family members. The rice flour gives a crispier crust when fried and also seems to help the batter stay attached to the chicken while cooking. The recipe is otherwise the same as originally written.
It’s too soon to tell if this wins over the skeptics – our biggest chicken-hater is currently living away from home – but it was a hit with the rest of the family. This, in spite of the fact that I served 40 Carrots – a weird Cheez Whiz and carrot concoction from the same cookbook – as a side dish. There’s enough cheese and butter in the crust that it doesn’t need a sauce or gravy to accompany it – I served it over simple buttered noodles and it was just fine. The following day I microwaved one of the leftover cutlets and served it on a sandwich roll with mayonnaise and tomato. When I make these again that’s probably the approach I’ll take – they make a fantastic sandwich. I could also see this working as a stand-in for a schnitzel, with spaetzle and vinegared cabbage. There doesn’t really seem to be any way to do this one wrong. Enjoy!
- ¼ cup rice flour
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the egg wash:
For the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 275º F
- Pound the chicken breasts flat with a meat mallet to ¼~½ inch thickness.
- Mix the dredging ingredients together and spread out on a plate or baking tray.
- Whisk together the eggs, oil, and water to make the egg wash.
- Mix the bread crumbs and shredded cheese and place in a large, shallow bowl.
- Dredge the chicken breast in the flour mixture, then in the egg wash, then in the bread crumb mixture.
- Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Fry chicken cutlets in batches, turning every two minutes, about eight minutes total until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165º F. Add 1-2 tbsp of butter between batches as needed. Store in a 275º F oven until ready to serve.