I have been delinquent in posting this recipe, because it was actually part of my “Vegan + Fish” January — and was unexpectedly so adored that Mr. English regularly pesters me to make it again. I should listen.
I absolutely love Milanese. To me, it’s schnitzel with salad, and in my absurd calorie math, fattening + vegetable = less fattening. Sometimes traditional comfort food (think, gratin) leaves me feeling a bit, for lack of a better word, sick. Of course, I eat it anyway, because I love it — but that’s precisely what I was trying NOT to do last month.
There is a weightlessness to a Milanese that belies the fact that it, of course, fried meat. I always get up from the table grinning like the cat who ate a particularly deliciously prepared canary, but never having eaten myself ill.
I think part of its allure, for me anyway, is the fact that maman regularly breaded and shallow fried all kinds of things when I was growing up. So often, it was flounder. Sometimes chicken. Even eggplant (which she would famously douse in a caramelized onion and chickpea sauce — it’s in the family annals). It’s happy food for me.
To recreate it in my Vegan + Fish way, I coated fresh filets of tilapia with none other than Vegenaise (you could use regular mayonnaise, of course, if you’re not Vegan + Fishing). Just wait, I’ll explain. But first, I love tilapia because it has a sturdy fleshiness that at once stands up to my reliably voracious hunger, and also to being flipped in a pan. It doesn’t crumble to fish flakes upon contact with a spatula. It has backbone. I then season and dredge the coated fish in almond meal — which sticks to the Vegenaise as well as I had hoped it would.
I first learned to use almond meal when I took a macaron-making class in Paris an eon ago. Now, I keep it in my freezer. It makes the perfect light and nutty and aromatic coating on fish. Then, just a quick bronzing sear in olive oil, and my “Milanese” is perfect. I top it with arugula and fennel tossed in olive oil and lemon juice and, for punctuation, pieces of lemon and lemon zest. It perfectly captures that contract of the rich base and the bright as the summer sun salad. I think I may have eaten the whole thing in four minutes. Oh well.
4 tilapia filets
¼ cup mayonnaise (I use Vegenaise!)
1 cup almond meal
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
5 ounces baby arugula
1 fennel, thinly sliced (I use a mandoline), plus the chopped fronds
Season the fish with salt and pepper, and use your hands to coat in the mayonnaise. It sounds gross, but it tastes so great, you won’t regret it. Dredge in the almond meal to fully coat on both sides. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. When the oil is hot, add the fish in a single layer, cooking on medium heat until the fish is golden brown on both sides and cooked through.
Meanwhile, make the salad. In a large bowl, zest the lemon. Then cut the lemon into segments: using a small serrated knife or a paring knife, slice off the top and bottom of the lemon, exposing the yellow flesh, then run the knife down the edges to remove the skin and pith. Then, holding the lemon in your hand over the bowl, use the knife to cut out the little wedges of lemon flesh between the membranes. When that is done, squeeze out the lemon carcass into the bowl, getting rid of any seeds. If all this is too much for you, just juice the lemon into the bowl. Season the lemon with salt and pepper. Combine with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the arugula and fennel just before serving, and toss to combine.
To serve, place the fish, hot from the pan on a plate, and top it with the arugula salad. Yum!print this recipe