Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chicken Piccata: Easy to Make, Easy to Love

I don't have a long-winded or funny story about this one, kids. The recipe is pretty standard (aside from my addition of vine ripened tomatoes), and it doesn't call out for embellishment from any fancy oils or seasonings. Simply put, chicken picatta is a delicious, nutritious and uncomplicated dish that is easy enough for beginning cooks, yet is anything but easy on the flavor. There is no special trick other than to "Keep it simple, stupid," a lesson that Ryan from the fourth season of "Top Chef" can truly appreciate after his breaded picatta disaster in the season opening episode.

Chicken Piccata (for 2)
1/2 lb chicken cutlets
Flour for dredging
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
1/2 cup chicken broth/stock
1 clove garlic, minced
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped (optional)
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
Cappellini or Angel Hair pasta

1. Season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper and dredge lightly in flour. Shake off any excess. Heat olive oil in frying pan, and once the oil begins to dance, add the chicken cutlets. Brown the chicken on both sides over medium heat, and then remove and set aside.

2. Reduce the heat to low, add in the garlic and white wine (to deglaze the pan). Scrape up the browned bits of chicken -- they will add flavor and color to the sauce. After 1-2 minutes, add the chicken stock, lemon juice and capers. If the wine has run dry, pour in a little extra. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat, add the chicken, give the mixture a few good shakes of pepper, and then cover. Simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to develop and the chicken to tenderize. (Flip the chicken half-way through so both sides get some saucey love.)

3. Cook pasta according to package instructions. (Be sure to use plenty of water and don't forget to salt it!)

3. Five minutes before you are ready to serve, uncover the pan and add the tomatoes. If the sauce needs thickening, try adding a splash of the pasta water. The starch from the pasta works as a thickening agent.

4. When the pasta is ready, drain, toss in some of the sauce, and then plate. Ladle the chicken and remaining sauce over the top.

Serve with fresh steamed veggies and a large glass of that white wine you used to cook with. It should be good enough to drink -- if your mouth isn't willing to do business with it, your chicken shouldn't be doing business with it either.

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