Chicken Piccata is an easy meal, and our dish is elevated with the complex flavors in the sauce. The inspiration for this meal came to us from Eating Well magazine. Be sure to use freshly squeezed lemon juice, just-picked herbs, and fresh garlic. (No processed garlic welcome here!) Good quality ingredients make all the difference, especially when eliminating sodium. Any good chef knows that salt is vitally important in cooking, but we can’t go there anymore, so we improvise, and it works!
Mis en place is important as well. There are 14 different ingredients in this recipe, but don’t let that intimidate you. You probably have everything on hand, (except for maybe the capers?) Measure and pour the ingredients ahead of time. Use a beautiful, dry white wine. We chose Kim Crawford, only because there’s always a bottle for our daughter, in the fridge. (Why a rubber band on the knife? We sharpen our knives on the regular, and the newly-sharp knives always get marked. Those are the ones we reach for first.)
(Can we talk?)
About fresh herbs? They are one of the most transformational aspects of cooking. Herbs step up your game, plain and simple. We plant our herb garden in May, starting the plants inside, until frost is no longer a threat to us in Buffalo, NY. We use self-watering garden boxes. Ours came from here a decade ago, but just about every garden center carries them now. I water the boxes once per week, and clamp dark plastic over the boxes, to keep moisture from evaporating. So easy!!
The basil gets it’s own, full box because … well … BASIL! Parsley gets it’s own box of varieties. Two kinds of oregano, two kinds of sage, then rosemary, dill, marjoram, and a planter with three kinds of mint. I’m in heaven. We’ll continue to enjoy the bounty from this simple garden all summer. When fall comes, we’ll bring them inside the screened porch and shut the glass doors to ward off the frost, and they’ll continue to flourish for as long as they’ll let us. Somewhere around October, we’ll harvest the rest, and preserve them (in oil in the freezer) for winter herb deliciousness in soups, sauces and stews. If you grow nothing else, try herbs. You won’t be sorry! Just don’t let the herbs flower. Trim and prune the herbs a few times each week. I do it right as I am gathering the herbs to cook with. Herbs can be chopped, minced, sliced, and chiffonaded, or, tied in a bouquet garni (always parsley, thyme and bay leaves) or as a sachet, enclosed in cheesecloth. All these methods impart beautiful flavors and aromas.
Can we talk about Sauces, too?
Sauce makes or breaks a dish. In our endless research about cooking, we stumbled on a New York Times article written in 2016 by Samin Nosrat, (LOVE her) who notes that the five “Mother Sauces” of French cooking (béchamel, espagnole, velouté, hollandaise and tomate) have passed their prime, and are being replaced with more modern sauces: herb salsa, pepper salsa, yogurt sauce, pesto, and Tahini. Not sure I agree, although the article provokes thought. Where would we be without a perfect demi-glaze, an herbed tomato sauce, or a smooth-as-silk white sauce? Isn’t there room for all sauces? We love Tahini as much as all of you, but we think there’s room at the table for as many sauces as possible. Our takeaway from the article:
- “Eventually, you’ll start thinking of meat and vegetables as accompaniments to sauce, instead of the other way around.”
Okay – back to the Chicken Piccata.
We sent some off (to the relative we cook for,) and enjoyed the rest for our dinner last night. The sauce tasted rich and indulgent, but it’s totally K2.0 approved!
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ¼ C all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp coarse ground pepper
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ½ C no-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 slices lemon
- 2 tsp unsalted butter
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ C dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1½ Tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
- 1½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
- Combine cornstarch and chicken broth in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Combine flour, salt and pepper in a separate, shallow dish.
- Cut chicken breasts in half, width-wise. Place each one between two pieces of plastic wrap, and pound them to ½" uniform thickness. Dry them with a paper towel, and then dredge them through the flour mixture, until their surface is coated on both sides.
- Heat oil a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes per side, only turning once. Check for done-ness with an instant-read meat thermometer; it should reach 165º. Remove from heat, set aside, and top with foil to keep warm.
- Brown the lemon slices in the skillet, 30-60 seconds. Remove from skillet.
- Melt butter in skillet, still on medium heat. Add garlic, and stir for 30 seconds. Do not let the garlic burn! Pour in the wine, and stir, to de-glaze the pan. (The action of scraping the fond off the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon. All those bits = flavor!)
- Whisk the cornstarch/broth mixture again, and pour into the skillet. Bring to boiling, and then turn heat to low. Simmer for a minute or two, until sauce has thickened to a gravy-like consistency.
- Stir in lemon juice, papers, and thyme.
- Drizzle chicken with sauce, top with lemon slices and more fresh thyme.
We enjoyed it with an arugula salad: grilled white peaches and red onion, smooth Burrata cheese, and topped it with champagne vinaigrette. Inspiration credit for this recipe from a wonderful blog called Sugar Maple Farmhouse. Check them out!
Grilled Peach and Red Onion Salad with Arugula, Burrata and Champagne Vinaigrette
- Charcoal grill, gas grill, or indoor grill pan
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp champagne vinegar
- 1 Tbsp raw, liquid honey
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 medium lemon, squeezed
- pepper, to taste
- 6 cups baby arugula lettuce
- 2 medium firm freestone peaches, (not over-ripe)
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 ball Good quality Burrata cheese
- Combine all 6 ingredients in a glass jar and shake to emulsify.
- Cut onion slices width-wise to create rings, to but do not separate individual rings.
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat. When ready, place halved and pitted peaches directly on grill grates, cut side down. Grill 5 minutes and remove.
- Grill onion slices on grates as well, 3-5 minutes, taking care not to separate the rings, if possible.
- Slice the Burrata cheese with a very sharp knife, into halves or quarters. The cheese encased in the outer Mozzarella (Stracciatella) is creamy and loose.
- Plate the salad, drizzle with the dressing, and serve.