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May 12, 2012

Don't be a Chicken Picatta!

I'm one of those people who almost never order pasta or chicken in a restaurant because, really, I can cook it at home for $1.50 a serving, not $25.00!

There are two exceptions for pasta. At Paul's Pasta Shop  you can watch them make the pasta through the front window, (while you wait in a ridiculously long line for 5:30 on a Monday!) or if there's a pasta dish with bacon on the menu. The latter is not necessarily an automatic choice, but you know that bacon makes everything better! At Paul's I usually order the Carbonara. I have to. It's delicious.

Chicken doesn't fare much better in the restaurant world. I mean $30 for a broiled chicken breast with  a prune juice reduction and steamed fake baby carrots? I know your prep cook and I know he carves your carrot pieces to look like that!

Of course, between not ordering Pasta and not ordering Chicken at restaurants, I'm pretty much left with Lamb and Sea Scallops so now I'm no longer a cheap date for Big Daddy....

Chicken Picatta (or veal picatta) is one dish that I never considered cooking at home, because with all of the pounding and the beating and the wailing and gnashing of teeth - oh, sorry that's just me -  I  thought it was a very difficult dish to cook.  So, it was a Restaurant Dish. One that I didn't feel guilty about ordering and one that I occasionally wished I could serve at home.

So, I happened to buy a cookbook from the Mystic Seaport called "New England Seasons" or something like that. Now, when I buy a cook book, I read it cover to cover. - actually, I usually take the cookbook out of the library first, cook a few dishes and then decide if I want to put them into my little handwritten cookbook or if I want to actually buy the real thing. They Mystic Seaport cookbooks, however, are pretty tried and true.

Anyway, I get a cookbook and I read it cover to cover.  As I read, I write down the name and page number of the recipes I want to cook, and then slide it into the front of the book for future reference.
So imagine my surprise when I flipped a page in a new cookbook that was full of relatively easy recipes, and saw a recipe for Chicken Picatta!

And I read the directions. And they were easy! And I thought to myself "I'm never ordering Chicken Picatta at a restaurant again!".

So, I made the Chicken Picatta for MiniMe and Big Daddy - the pickiest of picky eaters -  and much to my surprise they loved it.  L O V E D it!  I serve it with Rice Pilaf and Sauteed Baby Spinach or Steamed Broccoli. Or Steamed Fake Baby Carrots.

I can tell you, there are days when I'm having a big stare down with a couple of Chicken Breasts and wondering what to do with them that I haven't already done a hundred times and I realize that I've got all the ingredients for Chicken Picatta. I've gone from culinary zero to culinary hero in no time!

So, from my crazy kitchen to yours, here's a fancy schmancy, impress the guests if you need to, recipe (which I changed a bit for our tastes)  This recipe feeds the 3 of us with a little bit left over.

You Need:

2 whole boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts. Separate and trim the breasts. You are going to pound them silly, so if they are still big, slice each breast in half. (you could totally do this with Veal Medallions instead of Chicken). You can pound first and cut the pieces into smaller portions, too.

1/2 cup regular flour (I use King Arthur because it's from New England) in a pie plate Seasoned with salt and pepper or some Tony Chachere's

4 large eggs, beaten in a pie plate and mixed with:

2 Tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese (the stuff out of the shaker for family, freshly grated for Mothers in Law, Bosses and Holidays). Stir it into the eggs.

1 Stick Butter (salted, unsalted, whatever you have!)

1Tbsp Tiny Capers, Crushed - if desired - if you don't like 'em don't use 'em and substitute 1/4 c white wine

1 Lemon cut into wedges for serving.

1) Pound the chicken until it is very thin - think 1/4". I like to put the breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and use either a big, heavy frying pan to bang away at it, or a meat mallet. The pan makes more noise. The mallet will scare anyone who walks into the kitchen wondering what all the noise is about.

2) Over Medium Hi heat, melt Butter in a large frying pan. You want the butter to be sizzling hot to start and to brown by the time you finish cooking.  On my stove, I put the knob between 6 and 7 and keep it there.

3) Dredge each filet  through the flour until it's covered, give it a little shake when you take it out of the flour to get rid of any flour clumps. This helps the eggs adhere to the Chicken.

4) Place the chicken in the Egg/ Cheese mixture and flip, to make sure the chicken is covered with the egg. Before you move it to the frying pan, let it drip a bit back into the plate so you don't drool egg all over the place.

5) Place the Egg covered Chicken into the hot pan. It should sizzle at least a little. Leave it for 4ish minutes (the thinner the meat, the shorter the cook time). Don't touch it till the 4ish minutes are up. You can shake the pan a little if you need to. Your kitchen will smell like French Toast. This is normal. After the 4ish minutes, flip the Chicken until cooked through. This will depend on how thin the Chicken is, so keep an eye on it.

You can cook as many pieces at one time as will fit into the pan and stay flat on the bottom of the pan. Move the cooked pieces to a warm platter.

6) Once the Chicken is all done, stir the capers (or the wine) around in the left over Butter in the pan, scraping up any bits or pieces.  If you use the Wine, this is called "De glazing". Pour this sauce over the cooked chicken on the platter and serve.

This is 6 steps, which some of you may feel is more work than you want to do. Trust me. This is not a huge deal to make, and if you need/ want to impress someone, this is a great dish to do it.

So, I'm going to break it down for you:

Slice (if necessary)
De glaze


** As a note for the Gluten Free - I'm considering using Corn Starch in place of the Flour for a Gluten Free option. Any input on this would be greatly appreciated!

Please note that I am not acquainted with King Arthur, his court, nor his flour.  I also do not know Tony Chachere, though he lived in the neighborhood where my friend grew up. All opinions are my own and I am not compensated for any shameless name dropping.

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