Tuesday, August 09, 2005

You Say Picatta, I Say Piccata

Chicken Piccata is one of my fave meals. The hard part is trying to spell it. Some people prefer Picatta to Piccata and I can find no definitive answer on which is correct. Just as the spelling is varied, so are the additional ingredients. My choice of the garnish and extra ingredients depends upon what is in the pantry or fridge but however I serve it, it always tastes piquant, lemony and delicious.

Piccata Rustico by Flaurella

I rarely measure ingredients. Sometimes, I cook for 2, sometimes for 20. I can't recommend anyone follow my recipes exactly since I never cook anything exactly the same way twice but this is basically how I make my piccata and I've mentioned the important things to remember.

I like one totally skinned, boneless chicken breast per person. I don't use dark meat or anything but boneless, skinless breasts for this dish. I usually pound the chicken with a meat mallet until it is of uniform thickness. Pound the chicken breasts between two sheets of professional restaurant film. It holds up well and you will not have any mess to clean up afterwards. Pound the boneless chicken breasts to about 1/2 inch thick. I always flip the saran-like film packet and pound both sides. You will find you can pick up a whole sheet of breasts and flip them easily after you pound the first side and make sure each side of the heavy Saran is in contact with the other along the edges.

Remove the top piece of the film from the pounded chicken and work on the bottom layer. Lightly salt and moderately pepper one side and then sprinkle lightly with a shaker of flour on both sides of the chicken. You don't even need a plate or a bowl and when you are done, just fold up the restaurant film and toss it. Of course, everyone knows to be careful with fresh poultry clean-up. I like a good spray cleaner and a paper towel for counter-top cleanup. I never use a sponge when working with raw poultry, but you already knew that, right? Back to the food...

For each breast, I add to a medium hot skillet, one pat of unsalted butter and a small splash of peanut oil, about a tsp or two. Keep in mind, you don't need to measure, just estimate. You need enough oil and butter to cover the bottom of the pan once all of the chicken has been added. The oil keeps the butter from burning and the butter adds flavor to the oil. For three breasts, add three pats of sweet cream butter and about a tablespoon of oil. When the butter stops sizzling and foaming, swirl the pan to mix the butter and oil and add the chicken.

Brown the chicken on both sides. Do not overcook. About 3 to 5 minutes per side ought to do it if your heat is medium high. Since the chicken has been pounded uniformly, it will cook evenly.

At this point, you need to see if you have too much or too little oil and butter in the pan. You want the bottom of the pan to still be lightly covered in oil and butter. If there is a lot there, spoon some off into a side dish. (that way, if you need it later, you didn't toss it) Now, add splash (about a tablespoon or two) of lemon juice and my fave ingredient for this dish, a few shakes of WHITE Worcestershire Sauce for each chicken breast. I always keep Lea and Perrins sauces on hand in dark and white. In the South, you can't cook without it. Trust me on this one and buy it if you make this dish. You can use L&P White Worcestershire Sauce for many seafood, chicken and pork dishes. Look for it in your local market.

The acid from the lemon juice and white Worcestershire sauce is going to deglaze your pan so give it a gentle shake and then flip the chicken to the other side with a fork or tongs. The sauce will start to brown and when it does, you can add about a quarter cup of good white wine. Use the same wine you plan to serve with dinner. Never buy wine for cooking. Cooking wines taste like gasoline and will ruin your dish.

Shake the pan again and the little brown bits on the bottom will mix into your sauce and add flavor. The sauce may have reduced in volume about 1/3 at this point. If you don't have enough sauce, add a little oil/butter mixture that you reserved and some more lemon juice and L&P Sauce.

Now, you are ready to add your favorite combination of artichokes, minced garlic, mushrooms, capers or olives, whatever.

Mushrooms, olives, fettuccini and artichoke hearts

If you have fresh mushrooms, add them first if you haven't already cooked them and give them a minute or two to cook. You could also use canned, well drained mushrooms if that's all you have on hand. I always add artichokes, quartered hearts or bottoms, to this dish. I also include mushrooms if I have them and I will add either black sliced olives or capers, whichever is convenient and in the fridge. I have made piccata many times when all I had was chicken, artichokes and the sauce ingredients so use what you have and what you like.

Add the artichokes - plain canned or frozen (drain both well first) is fine, but don't use pickled or the kind you buy in oil for salads. Add capers or olives to the mushrooms, cover and turn down the heat. At this time, taste for seasoning. I always add some freshly minced garlic and I almost always add some tarragon at this point. You should try tarragon if you like complex flavors. Parsley works okay too, but at least try the tarragon once.

You can cover and simmer this entree at this point as needed while you prep your plates. I prefer to serve piccata with fettuccini. Spinach pasta or green and white pasta is attractive with this entree but you can serve it alone or with rice or your choice of veggies.

Basic Ingredients:
Chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless, one for each serving
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste
1 pat unsalted butter for each chicken breast
1 splash (maybe a TBSP) peanut oil per serving
Lemon juice
White Wine L&P Worcestershire sauce
Canned or frozen artichokes, drained well (one can or box for each 3 to 4 servings)

Select Your Favorite Optional Ingredients:
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
Sliced or quartered fresh mushrooms (about 1/2 pound for 4 servings)
Pitted and sliced black olives
Paper thin whole slices of lemon with the rind intact
Garlic (minced finely)
Freshly chopped parsley

For example, you might like the basic chicken piccata with artichokes, mushrooms and garlic. Or perhaps you don't have any artichokes on hand but you have capers in the fridge, fresh lemons on the counter and tarragon in the spice cabinet. Use the ingredients you like/have and experiment.

Flaurella's Piccata recipe as described

When ready to plate, serve the chicken picatta on top of your pasta, rice or solo. Arrange your artichokes and other ingredients with the chicken. If your sauce is too thin, just turn the pan up for a minute while you are making the plates and the sauce will thicken nicely. Pour it over the piccata and enjoy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please send several pounds (ready made of course) to: Hot for Piccata in Hot Springs Village.