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Foothill gourmet: Chicken makes a good piccata

By From page B2 | February 24, 2014

Donna BrownI’ve had a chicken piccata recipe that I have treasured for 20 years. A piccata recipe is typically made with veal but chicken is a flavorful, as well as, a less expensive alternative. Last weekend we prepared chicken piccata for good friends.

A piccata recipe is extremely flavorful implying a complicated preparation but this recipe is not labor-intensive. Basically, it’s a quick sauté of a ¼-inch thin portion of chicken breast finished with a flavorful concentrated sauce prepared by a pan reduction. The pan reduction technique is amazingly fast. Of course, I’ll share that technique.

My hope in sharing the recipe and the technique of a pan reduction is to help you enjoy a flavorful meal that you prepare in about 35-40 minutes. The recipe is perfect for a Friday or weekend night when time is more carefree. My husband pounded the meat to ¼-inch thickness as I prepared the sauce ingredients. If you have to do the tenderizing step, add 10 minutes to the preparation time.

Chicken piccata — To turn skinless, boneless chicken breasts into cutlets for fast cooking use this method. First, remove the chicken tender. Removing the tender enables you to pound the breast more evenly. Set the tender aside, refrigerate and use for another purpose. Then, butterfly the breast.

To butterfly lay the chicken breast flat. Cut horizontally from the thin side to the thick side, but not all the way through. Open the chicken breast like a book. Place it in a heavy-duty Ziplock bag. Pound with a heavy rolling pin, a meat tenderizer or even a small leftover piece of a two-by-four.

Pound until the chicken breast is flattened evenly to about ¼ inch. After pounding, one chicken breast will make two servings.

Combine 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper in a plastic bag. Add each breast and shake to lightly coat. Shake off excess flour.

For the sauté step — In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup clarified butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil until bubbling. Sauté chicken 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Each side should be delicately browned. Removed from skillet, place on a separate dish and cover to keep warm.

For the pan reduction — You will need 2 tablespoons of fat. Measure the remaining fat left in the skillet and add or subtract oil to be sure there are 2 tablespoons. Stir in ¼ cup dry white wine, scraping the bottom to loosen browned bits. This step is called deglazing and imparts delicious flavor from all the browned bits. Add 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel. Stir as the liquid reduces and the sauce thickens. This is the technique of a pan reduction. Remember it is important to double all amounts if you’re preparing more than two breasts.

Add the chicken back into the skillet to be coated with the piccata sauce. Serve the chicken spooning any remaining sauce over the top. Garnish with a sprinkle of 2 tablespoons drained capers and 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley.

I also made a tomato basil soup and a caesar spinach salad. Dwight fixed a white chocolate mousse for an elegant finish. I’ll share those recipes next time.

I have just enough space left for a teaser — a tidbit of interesting culinary information. Most cooks and lovers of fine foods realize there are four primary tastes — sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Several years ago, I read an article describing a fifth taste termed umami. Both ripe tomatoes in your garden and fresh mushrooms have probably the taste of umami. Keep watching the Foothill Gourmet for a future column explaining umami.

Donna Brown

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