Pecan Milanesas with Corn and Blueberry Salsa

blueberry corn salas1

05 Jul Pecan Milanesas with Corn and Blueberry Salsa

Corn and Blueberry Salsa to atop Pecan Milanesas —

Blueberries and corn? Really? Yes. In salsa? Oh my, yes. Make that a big, fat blueberry yes.

The photographer in me loves the colour contrast. The eater in me loves the crunchy texture and sweet-sour flavours. Add lime and cilantro to the mix? Oh, I’m there. I’m so very, very there.

In retrospect, I wonder why the combination surprised me. After all, cornmeal and blueberries are a natural match, so corn itself isn’t a stretch. My surprise merely proves what I have long suspected — I’m missing a lot of culinary opportunities thanks to my near total ignorance of Latin cuisine. But all that’s changing thanks to Sandra Gutierrez, author of The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes That Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America & the American South (University of Northern Carolina Press, 2011).

What exactly is New Southern-Latino Cuisine? It’s easier to tell you what it’s not.

  • It’s not fusion.
  • It’s not heavy, overly-spicy or greasy.
  • It’s not Tex-Mex.

Well, so is cat food, so that’s not as helpful as I’d hoped. Allow me to expand.

Southern-Latino cuisine is a meeting place where 21 distinctly different cuisines from across Latin America mesh with the culinary traditions of the American South. Unlike fusion, it’s not a deliberate blending of culinary cultures, carefully crafted by innovative chefs in restauraunts. Instead, this elaborate intermingling of styles and flavours developed naturally via homecooks. Despite being around for more than 20 years, Southern-Latino cuisine has gone unheralded. Gutierrez’s cookbook is the first to document the exciting results.

“It’s a quilt of cultures,” Gutierrez says. And how could it be anything else? This quilt is stitched from:

  • Three ethnic groups (Indigenous South Americans, Europeans from Spain and Portugal, and Africans)
  • One basket of ingredients (tomatoes, corn, pork, beans)
  • Common cooking techniques (roasting, poaching, barbecue)

The fresh and flavourful results are exotic yet familiar. Guava Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting is built like a classic southern layer cake yet draws inspiration from a traditional Cuban flavour combination. The ubiquitous Southern buttermilk biscuit gets a boost from chicharrones, a crumbled Latino version of crackling. The Layered  Potato and Egg Salad  is an eye-catching Peruvian take on the classic Southern picnic dish. With Southern rum, bourbon, and pecans meshing with Latino chiles, avocados and cinnamon, the outcomes seem limitless yet well within my wheelhouse.

I offer Pecan Milanesas with Corn and Blueberry Salsa as proof. Although I’ve had pecan-coated chicken before, it was mostly nuts and little flavour, mired to the plate by a heavy cream sauce. But topped with corn, blueberries and lime? It’s almost as if my palate had been asleep and is only now waking up.

Hello, New Southern-Latino cuisine. Pleasure to meet you! I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Pecan Milanesas with Corn and Blueberry Salsa —


Pecan Milanesas with Corn and Blueberry Salsa
Recipe type: Chicken & Poultry
Cuisine: South American
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
The crunchy crust on this chicken gives way to tender flesh, delicately dressed with a refreshingly sweet salsa embellished with hints of mint and honey. Milanesas, or breaded cutlets, are to Latin Americans what fried chicken is to Southerners. They became ever-present in Latin cuisine after Italian immigrants introduced them to South America in the nineteenth century. German immigrants brought their version, Wiener schnitzel, to the communities that welcomed them in large numbers, but it was the Italian term that has been absorbed into Latin American culinary lingo. They’re usually topped with lime juice and often served stuffed into sandwiches. In my version, pecans, which are native to the South, add a satisfying crunch and a touch of sweetness to the crust. Corn and blueberries work together in a colorful salsa that pops with sweet and tart flavors.
For the milanesas
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ cups pecans, toasted and ground (see note)
  • ½ cup dried bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
For the salsa
  • 1½ cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup minced Vidalia onion (or other sweet onion)
  • 1 minced serrano chile (seeded and deveined if less heat is desired)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Fit a baking sheet with a metal cooling rack; set aside. Pound the chicken breasts with a meat mallet to ¼-inch thickness; set aside. On a plate, combine the flour, salt, paprika, and pepper. On another plate, combine the pecans and bread crumbs. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and 2 tablespoons water. Dredge each cutlet in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess, and dip both sides of the cutlet into the eggs. Dip both sides of the cutlet into the pecans, pressing gently so they adhere well. In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup of the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the cutlets for 2–3 minutes per side, or until golden brown (add more oil as needed; reduce the heat if they brown too quickly). Transfer the cutlets to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10–12 minutes, or until cooked through (no longer pink).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the corn, blueberries, onions, serrano, cilantro, mint, lime juice, and honey and stir until well incorporated; season with salt and pepper. Serve the chicken topped with salsa.
Toast pecans on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for 5–8 minutes, or until fragrant. Transfer them to a plate to cool completely. Once toasted, pecans can be frozen in an air-tight container for up to 4 months. To grind pecans, place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse on and off until some pieces are ground to a meal and others remain a bit larger (about ten 1-second pulses); don’t overgrind, or you’ll end up with an oily meal. Alternatively, chop them very finely with a sharp knife.

This recipe excerpt is from The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Copyright © 2011 by Sandra A. Gutierrez. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.


Review in Brief

The New Southern-Latino TableTarget Audience: Southern cuisine lovers. Fresh food lovers. People looking for something new but not complicated. Anyone who isn’t afraid of a splash of lime and a sprinkle of chipotle.

Must Try Recipes

  • Mod-Mex Caesar Salad with Pecans
  • Lime and Chipotle Roast Chicken
  • Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Hot Praline Sauce

Biggest Delight: Discovering new flavour combinations that are innovative without being pretentious. The fresh, natural ingredients are cross-over cuisine at its best. My only disappointment is that I discovered this book so late.



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  • A Canadian Foodie
    Posted at 10:34h, 06 July Reply

    If you hadn’t told me this was New Southern-Latino Cuisine, I would have just thought it was a logical invention of yours – what you have, what looks great and tastes great. Nothing surprised me anymore by way of food combinations – to my ear… I am consistently thrilled when I get to taste ideas like this. Simple. Delicious, Nutritious and kind of logical. If you are super creative and have a good eye for colour. I was just thinking of doing a Saskatoon Berry and corn something the other day when I brought home an ear of organic corn (guilty – not in season here, yet) and slid it off the cob with my lovely sharp knife… then sauteed it in butter for about 90 seconds. My GOD. Oh – yes, and salt. Simple is so tasty and that got me thinking with my yard teeming with Saskatoon berries soon to be ready to pluck. And your bowl! Oh, my – now that is a diva bowl just waiting to be filled and photographed. Love the colour on it!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:06h, 07 July Reply

      I wish I’d created this! And it did use a lot of local ingredients. The blueberries, onions, cilantro and chicken were local — as was the corn, which was frozen. It’s a great reminder that we can blend local and imported and come up with fresh, tasty new dishes.

      Your Saskatoon berry and corn idea sounds great. Love the sauteing idea. Next time I make this I might grill the corn — just for fun. I don’t think we get Saskatoon berries here, I love the idea of putting a Prairie twist to the Latino and/or Southern theme.

      And thanks for noticing the bowl. I got it at a local potter’s market. Even though I don’t NEED another dish, just couldn’t resist buying it. And I’m glad I did!

  • Doreen Pendgracs
    Posted at 21:10h, 06 July Reply

    What a delightful recipe! I can’t wait to try it.

    I’m totally enamoured with the Peruvian culinary scene, so anything with a South American influence catches my eye these days, and you can never go wrong with pecans!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:08h, 07 July Reply

      “You can never go wrong with pecans!” might be my new motto. But then I feel that way about lime, cilantro, blueberries…

      I am not familiar with Peruvian cuisine, but the bright flavours of South America are so appealing, I am definitely going to explore this more.

  • Natalie Brown
    Posted at 01:53h, 07 July Reply

    Blueberry season is ending in Southern California soon. Locally, this Sunday. I was so sad I blogged about it. :( Any good substitutes? I have a stash but that is reserved for greedily shoving in my mouth… 😉

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:14h, 07 July Reply

      I feel your pain. We have a limited growing season here in Ontario and when peach season ends, I could weep.

      Substitutions for blueberries? Blackberries might work. Huckleberries are a bit more tart and have less flavour but would do in a pinch. If you’re not fussy about having a purple fruit, raspberries are an option, as are red currants, although these are more tart.

      Enjoy the last of your stash!

  • Carolyn T
    Posted at 22:27h, 21 May Reply

    I made the chicken last night. OMG! It was SO good, Charmian! I made a couple of very minor alterations – I was making just 2 breasts instead of 6, so I improvised slightly. I used the juice of a whole lime (more, in other words) and I added agave nectar instead of honey, and I used a bit more than indicated. I also used panko crumbs (because that’s what I had on my pantry shelf). Loved using fresh corn, and our blueberries are about as big as cherries these days. My husband nearly licked the plate. I also added some fresh basil, and I’m sure I used more herbs than indicated, but hey, that didn’t hurt a bit! Thanks for sharing the great recipe. I’m going to post it on my blog in a couple of weeks, but I’ll include the link-back.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 23:02h, 21 May Reply

      A good recipe can always withstand improvisation. Glad you liked the final product. It’s one of my favourite recipes. I can’t wati for the fresh berries and corn to come into my part of the world this summer. Blueberry and corn is a winning combination!

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