Wednesday, January 14, 2009

chicken piccata

So, here is last night's dinner which was really delicious. I probably should have waited for the weekend to make this or a weeknight when I was feeling better since this was a lot of work to prepare and then a lot of clean up. I almost envy those people who don't have my obsessive cleaning disorder, you know? Maybe I could have just left the dishes and gone to bed last night but I would have laid in bed tortured by the thought of dirty dishes and the potential threat of mice moving in. I live in a drafty old farm house on a farm and in two years, I have not seen a mouse. I know the previous occupants had mice and that my neighbors have mice. So, I am either the best housekeeper in the world or I have good snakes living on the property. I am not sure which is true. I like to think it is the former.

When I was single and living in Ohio, a friend used to often invite me to dinner with her family. She was married with two kids. I quickly learned that an invitation to dinner meant that I was cooking dinner for them. Since she didn't clean up after each meal, cooking dinner for them meant I was cleaning up their breakfast and lunch mess before I could make dinner. I think she only washed the items that she needed to make the next meal when she needed them. I didn't mind too much, obviously since it happened more than once. She also put the pots and pans that dinner was cooked in right on the table to serve. (To which I say, Martha Who?) I don't say this about my friend to say that I am better than she is, we just had a very different approach to cooking and cleaning. Her approach mad me feel like I was going completely crazy. I felt a little like that last night making dinner. Since my husband was home sick yesterday (poor guy), I came home to a sink full of dirty dishes. My usual approach would be to clean all of that up and put it all away before even starting dinner but then we would have eaten dinner at like midnight and of course the sick husband was really hungry at 5:00 when I got home! So, I tried to work around it. Big mistake, you know? My kitchen is small and one thing is so depended on the other, you know? For instance, if there are dishes in the sink, where can I wash veggies or drain something? Wow, never again. I obviously have to start with a completely clean kitchen. Ok, rant over.

Anyway, back to the chicken piccata - I served it with polenta and spinach with goat's cheese and pine nuts. All of this was a big hit with my husband. Normally when I make polenta, I serve soft polenta which is creamy and spoon-able. My husband wanted firm polenta cut into shapes and then seared, which is also very good. I won't go into a lot of detail but for the soft polenta, I use a 8 to 1 ratio of liquid to corn meal and for the firm type that can be sliced, I use a 6 to 1 ratio. So, 1/2 cup of corn meal to 3 cups of liquid.

Chicken piccata
serves 4

8 chicken cutlets (so that's 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, drained
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
8 thin fresh lemon slices

Gently pound cutlets to even thickness (somewhat less than 1/2 inch). Season with salt and pepper then dust with flour, shaking off excess flour.
Add oil to a sauté pan and heat over medium-high heat. Sauté cutlets 2-3 minutes on one side; flip the cutlets over and sauté the other side 1-2 minutes with the pan covered. Transfer cutlets to a warm plate; pour off fat from the pan.
Deglaze pan with wine and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic is slightly browned and liquid is nearly gone, about 2 minutes. Add broth, lemon juice, and capers. Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side 1 minute. Transfer cutlets to a warm plate. Remove the pan from the heat. Finish sauce with lemon slices and butter. Stir gently until butter melts. To serve, pour sauce over cutlets and lemon slices.

This is the spinach with pine nuts and goat's cheese. It is spinach, sauteed in a little olive oil with salt and pepper. When the spinach is wilted, I removed it from the heat and added pieces of goat's cheese and then the pine nuts. Easy-peesy-hot-and-cheesy. Literally.

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