Few better tests of a cook's capacity exists than the appearance of her cutlets. To start with she must study the meat from which she cuts them. Small well-fed mutton should always be chosen for this purpose, as this is free from the intermixing of fat and lean, which, if at all exaggerated, renders the cutlets most uninviting. Having chosen the meat, remember that for your purpose the best end of the neck (the loin as a rule is only fit for mutton chops) is the part required. From this order the butcher to remove the chine bone, in other words, the top of the ribs. Now with a sharp, rather heavy knife (there is a proper cutlet knife for this purpose), divide the piece, if small, by a straight, decided cut, exactly half way between the bones; if the mutton is large however, you will have to follow the line of the bone, only slightly outside it, and thus obtain a cutlet-shaped, but boneless slice of meat in between the two bones, which can be either set aside for other purposes, or can be placed alternately, when cooked, with the boned cutlets.
Do not attempt to trim your cutlets before separating them, as each should be prepared individually.
When divided off, lay each cutlet on a wetted chopping board and beat or "bat" it out with either the side of the cutlet knife or with a cutlet bat, or, failing these, with the rolling pin; only remember whatever you use must first be wetted with a little water. When properly batted out, the meat will have become a little spread out, and even with the edge of the bone. Now trim it neatly, removing all superfluous fat and skin, leaving only an even layer or border of the former about ¼in. thick all round as in Fig 1; then just where the lean meat stops make a straight cut right down to the bone, as at B D, and then clear the bone down to C from all flesh, skin, etc, scraping it nicely. When all the cutlets have been trimmed in this way, the bones being all cut to an equal length and scraped till clean and shining, remove the little bit of bone which is almost always left at the thicker end at F. A butcher does this with one sweep of his heavy knife, but for the amateur it is better to set the knife carefully on the right spot, and then separate off the bone by a sharp blow on the back of the knife with the rolling-pin. The illustration just mentioned shows the cutlet trimmed and un-trimmed. The shaded part from F to F shows the chine bone which the butcher should remove, whilst the rest of the shading from F to G is what he cook must trim off.
It is a matter of taste and expediency whether the meat is trimmed off by the straight line B D, or by the curved one E underneath it. Cutlets thus trimmed may be broiled, sautes, or egged and crumbed and fried in the frying basket, as you please. Loin cutlets are occasionally chosen, as their flavour is considered by some people superior to the drier neck cutlets, and, moreover, they are undoubtedly less wasteful, but they need very careful trimming to make them presentable. Of late years the fashion has obtained in this case, of dispensing with the bone altogether. The loin of mutton answers to the surloin of beef, and, like the latter, is finished with a T shaped bone, very easily removed in one piece if the loin has not been jointed. Now cut the cutlets in each case flush with the bone, producing alternately a boned and a boneless cutlet, all of the same thickness, and then carefully remove the bones from the former; you will now have a chop as at Fig. 2. (You will see that, also like the surloin of beef, the loin of mutton possesses a miniature undercut (known in France as the filet mignon), shown at point A.) Now bat this out as advised for cutlets. (Please remember - what too many cooks forget - that "batting" is not synonomous with mashing, but should be done gently and with discretion, or the cutlet, chop, or steak will be reduced to an unappetising and mangled mass of purplish red, anything but inviting, either to the eye or the palate.) When nicely batted, trim off all the skin, B B, together with as much of the fat as you judge convenient, either retaining all the undercut fat, and delicately skewering it round the lean part (previously gently pressed into shape with the wet knife), as at Fig. 3, or else removing it almost entirely, as at Fig 4. The latter is perhaps the best way of treating large mutton.
The cutlets thus prepared are known as "noisettes," though strictly speaking the whole of the undercut is in French termed the "noix," and becomes noisettes when sliced straight down in rounds, or "filets mignons" when cut into longitudinal slices. These noisettes are also termed escalopes, grenadins, medallions, etc., according to the method of their serving, or at times, of their garnish; at the same time, these latter terms are nowadays more frequently applied to beef or veal, or even fish, than to mutton. These noisettes may be cooked when trimmed, by any of the methods advised for cutlets, and fuller directions for their treatment are given below. Another method, and one much to be recommended when they are to be used cold en chaufroix, or mayonnaise, is to have them stewed. For this purpose the whole of the best end of the neck or loin should be put into the pan with vegetables, stock, seasoning, spice, etc, and then gently braised till cooked, when it is lifted out and allowed to get quite cold.
It is then cut into cutlets, and these are trimmed and served egged and crumbed; or coated with rich forcemeat on both sides; either wrapped in paper cases (en papilottes) and broiled, or used cold as they are en chaufroix or en mayonnaise.
By far the most difficult method of cooking cutlets is to broil them, and it is one that requires much practice, though at the same time it is well worth the trouble, as it is undoubtedly the most delicate way of serving them, the crisp, fresh, burnt taste, always characteristic of a broil, harmonising with and enhancing any garnish with which it may be served. The proper method is as follows: Have a delicately clean and bright gridiron, and rub its bars lightly with a morsel of suet; see that your fire is clear as well as sharp; then dip each cutlet singly in some hot butter, melted, or, better still, into good salad oil, and lay each on the grid, allowing the latter to be very near the fire at first so as to let the surface of the meat catch (though without actually burning), thus sealing up the pores, and keeping in the juice of the meat. Turn them frequently whilst cooking (they will take about eight to ten minutes), being very careful not to use a fork in the process for if the meat is pricked all the juice will run out, and the cutlet will become like leather.
If you have not proper cutlet tongs use two spoons, or stick the fork into the fat if any be left on.