THE RAMBLE: Winner for Team Spain!
LET’S TALK ABOUT Italian Food. I love Italian food. What makes it so lovable is the “philosophy” of Italian food. Just keep it simple with the best ingredients possible. Let each ingredient shine. Well, anything with ricotta cheese is my comfort food, but I have a problem with Italian restaurants, they usually leave me underwhelmed. I always think, “Wow, I could have made that at home and saved all that dang money!” The sauces never have the right balance of salt, acid and sweet, pasta is overdone, bland, etc., etc. My husband and I took a short trip to NYC and went to a highly Zagat-rated restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen and we were both pretty disappointed after walking the entire High Line, starving, and getting dishes that were not as awesome as we expected. The ambiance was great, it had incredibly charming and handsome Italian guys serving, homemade pasta, but again, even in NYC, my same thought returned, just kind of bland. The only place I have been impressed is…don’t make fun of me…Macaroni Grill. They have the best Cannelloni. Dang that place. So, go there if you want to spend a bunch of money at an Italian restaurant and actually get something awesome. In the meantime, here is an Italian dish we can make at home that is so delicious. A recipe for our Mediterranean repertoire!
LET’S TALK ABOUT Fleshes: Chicken and lemon. That combo is always a good idea. So good, in fact, that we see this combo around the globe, including amazing Chinese Lemon Chicken (coming soon!), and most chicken in South America is spritzed with it while cooking. Ok, ok, the more traditional version of this recipe is with veal, but here in the picky USA, that’s harder to find. I just go to Walmart, like everyone else, and buy the big package of boneless, skinless chicken breast. I always brine my chicken in a large bowl of water and a few tablespoons of salt for about 20 mins. Then I drain the water, rinse the chicken thoroughly, pat dry on paper towels, then freeze what I am not using that day and just defrost what I need the day before. This will keep the chicken tender no matter what, and also kind of “cleans” it.
Ok, credibility. This Chicken Piccata is America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe, so you know it will work the first time and be as perfect as the dish can get. It’s light but savory sauce, the freshness of the lemon, the slight brininess from the capers, the golden, juicy chicken, and a fresh hit of parsley…With that being said, however, I do only change one or two things, one is the step of lightly flouring the chicken before adding it to the pan. The flour in my pan always ended up too dark and gave a slight bitterness to the sauce that I didn’t care for. Maybe I rush the dish with too high of heat because it’s too gosh-darn delicious to wait for and I need to be patient(?), but I omit this step. The butter gives enough body to the pan sauce that I don’t miss the flour, and I love golden chicken that has been caramelized in olive oil, so I don’t miss the texture it gives either. But, try both, see what you like. I also don’t reduce the sauce down quite as bit to have more sauce, and I butterfly my chicken instead of cutting them in half. Don’t worry, I have made this several times, so I KNOW it doesn’t suck. I usually serve this with linguini fini or rigatoni and some kind of green vegetable.
Buy the America’s Test Kitchen recipe book! It changed my baking life and meat life. I grew up cooking, but gluten-free vegan, so marrying someone that had an ordinary childhood without food allergies and wanted those traditional things (that his amazingly talented Danish grandmother made, by the way) was something I had to learn to do from square one, and this is the book that finally gave me recipes that worked and were to a similar caliber as an amazingly talented Danish grandmother (yeah, do people on Pintrest even taste their recipes? HOLY CRAP the majority are bad!). This cookbook does all the troubleshooting for you and fail-proofs it for you so it doesn’t take three times to get a recipe right, oh and there are about 1100 recipes and counting with each new season. Plus, they’re on PBS and we should all be supportive of that. It’s on Amazon.
Any chicken dish demands a meat thermometer. For the love OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, do not over-cook the chicken! That is probably the grossest thing we could make. Gross, dry chicken. I hated chicken until I learned how to properly cook it. Cook it only a few minutes on each side and temp it once it turns opaque. Do it every minute if you have to, and as soon as it hits 160 degrees F, take that bad boy off the heat. Stores like Walmart and Target all have them on the cheap, but America’s Test Kitchen suggests this one available on Amazon.
WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Italian food that apparently do taste their own recipes: Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar of The Tuscan Gun and Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin @ExtraVirginShow, America’s Test Kitchen @TestKitchen, Jamie Oliver @JamieOliverCom (his show Oliver’s Twist will change the way you cook!).
Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook. Serves 4, Easy level recipe, about 30 minutes to make
2 large lemons
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and butterflied
Table salt and pepper
1/4 C unbleached, all-purpose flour (optional)
1/4 C olive oil
1 small shallot, minced (about 1 TBS), or 1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press or grated through a micro-plane (about 1 TBS)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I prefer Swanson’s L.S. Chicken Stock)
2 TBS drained capers
3 TBS unsalted butter
1-2 TBS minced fresh parsley leaves
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, heat oven to 175 degrees.
- Half one lemon, pole to pole. Trim the ends from one of the halves and cut it cross-wise into slices 1/4 inch thick; set aside. Juice the remaining half and whole lemon to get 1/4 cup juice, reserve.
- Butterfly the chicken (freeze for a few minutes to get firmer flesh and more precise slice), Sprinkle both sides with salt (about 1/4 tsp each side) and pepper to taste. Set chicken on a paper plate or shallow dish and sprinkle each side with flour (if using), and tap or shake chicken to allow excess to fall away.
- Heat 2 TBS of the olive oil in a 12 inch skillet (if you only have a 10 inch, just slice cutlets in half and do two halves at a time) and place over medium to medium-high heat until shimmering. Lay 2 of the cutlets in the skillet. Cook until browned, about 3 minutes, then slip and cook second side until browned, about 3 minutes longer. Check the temperature, chicken needs to register 160 degrees F. When 160, remove from heat and stack chicken on a baking sheet or oven-proof plate and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining chicken.
- Add shallot or garlic to the now-empty skillet. Add a few drops of oil if the pan is too dry. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds for shallot and 10 seconds for garlic. Add the broth and lemon slices, increase heat to high, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula to loosen the brown bits. Simmer until the liquid reduces a bit, about 2-3 mins. Add the lemon juice and capers and simmer until the sauce reduces a bit, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and swirl in the butter until it melts and thickens the sauce. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.