Chicken Piccata (Or Floured Chicken with Lemon, Parsley, and Capers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 After having written this post I realized that this recipe is very similar to one I wrote two weeks ago for whiting fish in a mustard, lemon, and parsley sauce.  I guess this means I am in a lemon-and-parsley kind of mood lately – hopefully you are too.  Truth be told, it is also thanks to a reader from California, who asked me if I knew a good chicken piccata recipe, that I decided to bust out a version I made once or twice for my dad (a lover of this recipe, especially when made with thinly pounded veal), and I am happy to be re-introduced to this easy and delicious staple. 

For this particular recipe I did what I like to do best, which is  invite over some cobailles, or guinea pigs, to test the recipe out before publishing it here. Et voilà, quelle joie de voir leurs bonnes réponses à propos de cette recette! Bref, my willing friends (thanks Erin and Sophie) confirmed what I was hoping to hear: this recipe is extremely fast to put together (less than 20 minutes, honest!) and packs a lot of fantastic flavor in just a few ingredients.  My chicken piccata sauce came out very green, but that is because of my firm belief in doubling the amount of herbs in almost any recipe - they can only add to the depth of flavor, and I follow the reasoning that if I’m already chopping then I may as well go the whole nine yards and chop a lot.  However, if you are not like me and don’t enjoy running your knife (which is hopefully very sharp and large) through a seemingly endless pile of parsley, there is another solution: stem your parsley leaves, place them in a high-rimmed glass cup, and cut them up with scissors!  You will get good results with a lot less work.  Or, you can be like me and enjoy this type of torture. C’est comme vous voulez.

A quick note on butter: butter is a high-fat pleasure that adds fragrance, flavor, and richness to any food it touches.  We all know the satisfaction of walking into a kitchen and smelling the nutty and delicious smell that butter gives off once it begins to brown in a skillet – it’s almost as amazing as waking up to the smell of bacon (I have yet to think of anything that smells better, except maybe freshly brewed coffee in the morning -I’d love to hear your ideas on this matter).  However, I have a sister who  is the star of my life (she works – get ready for a blatant plug – at the Daily Meal, a new and thorough food website, started by the ex-forbes.com CEO), and this wonderful relation of mine has had high cholesterol since about age 14, and has since then been denied the privilege of guiltlessly indulging in butter-drenched delices.   Because of dietary restrictions implemented on her at a very early age, I also grew up understanding the risks involved in consuming food with a high saturated fat content.  Why am I telling you this? To explain what I could have said in about a dozen words: if you want to substitute the butter in this recipe for olive oil, you can. 

If you’re lucky enough to enjoy fatty food without significant consequences, then I implore you to make the recipe as I did and as written, which is still light and healthy.  And if you do try it, please let me know how it comes out – I think I can say with confidence that you will surprise yourself by your cooking skills, and you will see how easy it is to prepare delicious food.   

Chicken Piccata  – serves 1

1 skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut in half or pounded thinly
all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Place some flour in a shallow bowl, and dredge the chicken to coat with flour.
2. Heat half the butter in a small or medium skillet over medium heat (big enough to hold the chicken). Once hot, add the breast and cook until done, about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate.
3. Heat olive oil in the same skillet. Add the lemon juice, capers, and chicken stock, and stir to combine. Add chicken back to the skillet, and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Stir in parsley and remaining half of butter. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

Easy Cauliflower Risotto with Crisp Potato Bits

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Whenever I make risotto I think of my friend Giulia, who grew up in Bologna, in northern Italy.  I decided to make risotto for the first time a few months ago, and when I told her about it she immediately explained to me, “that’s great, risotto is easy and delicious.  But don’t make it like French people – they don’t know how to make any Italian food.  Remember to add the broth one ladle at a time; les français ne suivent pas cette règle, et le risotto souffre. Sometimes, they will even add water to the risotto instead of broth!” (I wish I could somehow portray to you the look of horror on her face as she explained this to me).  According to Giulia, coffee in France is also horrific, and is something that should be enjoyed only in Italy.
I can’t say for sure that risotto in France is bad.   I have never eaten risotto at a restaurant here so I have no opinion on the matter.  Either way, I took her advice and added broth to my risotto au fur et à mesure, a little at a time, and the result was lovely.  Risotto made correctly becomes almost creamy and silken, while still maintaining a certain firmness thanks to the arborio rice. I thought about adding chopped and fried shallots as a garnish, but I decided ultimately on using a fingerling potato, since it provides a little more substance.  You, dear reader, can add whatever you would like to top the risotto!
Truthfully, I also decided to make this because I have a giant box of arborio rice that has been resting in my kitchen for about 5 months now, and I’m just starting to make a dent in it.  Since I also had parmesan in my fridge, I figured why not, let’s try out this risotto with some seasonal cauliflower.  So, here is the final product of my creation, which I devoured immediately after taking these photos, and although I don’t say it often, I was pretty impressed with myself.  If you try this, I guarantee you will have good results, it is pretty difficult to botch this one up.  The recipe is relatively quick (maybe 35 minutes total, plus some chopping) and all the fun takes place in two pans (one for the broth, one for the risotto).  You have to watch the risotto carefully since you’ll be adding broth over time, but it is kind of fun to see how the rice changes and eventually reaches the perfect level of softness.

This recipe calls for 1/2 of a head of cauliflower; the other 1/2 you can store in the fridge for up to 1 or 2 weeks.  You can use it to make cauliflower in a spicy peanut sauce, or try simmering it in some milk until tender, then pureeing it for a nice winter white soup. 

Cauliflower Risotto with Crisp Potato Bits - Serves 1
For the risotto:
1 cup cauliflower florets (from 1/2 head of a small cauliflower)
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 small onion, chopped
3/4-cup arborio rice
1/4-cup dry white wine
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
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for the potato bits:
1 small fingerling potato, cut into little dice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
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1. Cut the cauliflower head in half, keep one half and store the remainder in the fridge for another use.  Remove the center stalk and chop finely; roughly chop the florets, keep separate.
2.  Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C.
3.  Heat the stock in a saucepan, bring to a boil then to a simmer, and add the florets.
4.  In another saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, onion, and celery stalk, and cook gently until softened, about 10 minutes.
5.  Meanwhile, place potatoes on a lined baking sheet and toss with remaining ingredients.  Bake until golden and crispy, about 15 minutes.
6.  Once the vegetables are softened, turn up the heat, add the rice, and cook until slightly translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the wine, stir, and cook 2-3 minutes more. 
7.  Now the fun part: start adding the broth, one ladle at a time, and simmer until the rice is soft on the outside with a slight bite on the inside, about 20 minutes. The florets should be soft at this point so you can add them with the broth and crush them into the rice with a wooden spoon
8.  Once rice is cooked, stir in the parsley.  Remove from heat. and stir in the parmesan.  Garnish with potato bits.