Chicken Piccata

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(Beginning of Rant)
When looking at my recipe section (located on the banner bar above), I hope you see my offerings are made with meat, produce and goods I find at the local store. Since I live way deep in the piney woods of South Mississippi, the local store would be Wally World (Walmart).  It isn’t that I have a passion for Wally World.  I have few alternatives. Not a good thing for a foodie like me.

On seafood:  The Gulf Coast here is rich with shellfish and many kinds of fin-fish that are harvested from the local waters daily.  Yet, because of the laws governing the sale of seafood by persons other than licensed commercial fisherman and seafood dealers, there are two good seafood markets on the entire coast that actually sell fresh fish.  I love stuffed flounder, a local fish, but I am forced to the frozen section at Wally World for such things as Tilapia harvested from a farm in Zacapa, Guatemala. (I exaggerate, but not by much). Commercial fishermen sell to distributors.  In most states it is unlawful for a recreational fisherman to sell his catch.  I understand the need to control over-fishing, but local fresh seafood is not making it to my table.

On meats:  As much as I love Martha Stewart, she sure is charming, but the main reason I really like her is she has her own butcher.  I look at the meat she uses on her cooking show and wonder where in the world am I going to find that?  She doesn’t cook with the regular folks in mind like me on a budget.  The question for me, how do I take a slab of beef imported from Mexico, cut so thin you can see through it, and turn it into a tasty dish? Meanwhile, my property is next to a cattleman’s. His beef isn’t making it to my table either.

Does it prevent me from making tasty dishes?  Well sometimes, but not mostly.  So, we go with what we know.  What we know is we have lots of chicken, pork, sauces, flour, canned goods and basic produce.

BTW, Miss. Stewart, if you need someone to assist you on your show, I’m the guy.
(End of Rant)

We always have a bag of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the freezer. We use it in a lot of dishes.  Last night I made Chicken Piccata – and it was good.

Piccata is referring to a sauce.  I have read many explanations as to the derivation of the word Piccata – boring!!!  In short, this dish is fried chicken with a buttery lemon sauce.

Serves 2

Chicken:

  • 3 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Flour
  • Italian Breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP butter

Preheat oven to 250° and boil water for the pasta.

In a nonstick pan, (I use my grandma’s 70 year old cast iron skillet), (( I bet Martha Stewart doesn’t have one of these))…

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…get oil hot on medium heat and melt butter.  Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Unless the chicken is real thick, it is not necessary to butterfly the chicken and pound the heck out of it.  No pounding!  Just dredge in flour, then in egg and then in Italian bread crumbs, place in fry pan and brown.

Most recipes call for flour only, no eggs or breadcrumbs.  From experience I prefer a Schnitzel crust rather than just flour.  I’m guessing since this dish originated in Italy, it probably was influenced by Wiener Schnitzel.  Actually it is the other way, “Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz brought the recipe [Schnitzel] from Italy to Vienna in 1857.” (So says Wikipedia)  I use Italian breadcrumbs because I like the flavor of the Italian herbs in the breadcrumbs.

When the chicken is browned, remove, place in an ovenproof dish and put in the oven. This keeps the chicken warm while making the sauce and cooking the pasta.

Sauce:

  • 1 cup white wine
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp corn starch mixed in 2 tsp of cold water
  • 1 TBSP capers
  • 1 TBSP chopped Italian Parsley
  • 2 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP butter

In pan drippings, add the white wine and deglaze the drippings a minute or so, and then turn heat to simmer.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until the sauce becomes thick.  Since I use corn starch to thicken the sauce, I adjust it with more lemon, butter, wine or anything needed to make sure it has the taste and consistency I anticipate.  I like a thick sauce, but most recipes don’t call for corn starch.

Pasta:

  • Thin Spaghetti

No matter what time zone or country of origin you are in, all dried pasta takes EXACTLY 12 minutes to cook al dente – not 11 minutes, 59 seconds or 12 minutes, 1 second – Exactly 12 minutes.

Serve up.

I assure you, as was this dish, the chicken is cooked to perfection, all white meat (no pounding) and it was juicy and moist and the sauce was great.  Martha Stewart would be proud, well or she should be anyways.

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Italian Mixed Green and Olive Salad

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As stated, we eat a lot of salads here.  Some a fairly complex like Shrimp Remoulade. This one is simple.

Serves 2:

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Romaine lettuce or your favorite lettuce, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk chopped
  • 2 scallions chopped (aka green onions or scallions)
  • Smoked Gouda cheese, cut into cubes
  • 2 slices of salami, cut into cubes
  • 8 black olive, pitted and sliced
  • 8 green olives, pitted and sliced
  • 8 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 4 marinated artichoke hearts, cut in half

Drizzle with olive oil.  Some folks like to use a vinaigrette but in this case the olives and the marinated artichoke adds the vinegar flavor.  All that is needed is olive oil, which I pour lightly on top.

I always leave salad at room temperature before eating.

Italian Rice (Risotto)

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When making Osso Bucco I serve it over polenta or Risotto Rice.  This recipe is simple.

Serves 2:

Ingredients:

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 cup risotto rice
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken or veal stock
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

In a 2 quart saucepan with a lid, sauté the onions and rice in olive oil (8 minutes).  Add wine and 1 cup of stock, bring to a slight boil and then simmer and place a lid on the saucepan.   Keep an eye on it and when the liquid is almost absorbed add the last cup of stock.  Keep stirring until cooked al dente.  Add the butter and the Parmesan cheese and stir, then serve.

Lasagna (from scratch)

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As you can see, I’m not a dainty cook. I serve what I call generous Tudor portions (i.e. Henry the 8th activity). If I could, I would have an ancient Tudor kitchen complete with a big fireplace and a pit. My favorite cooking includes slow cooking meats on a hardwood fire. In my kitchen would be baskets of fresh produce and herbs and lots of preparation tables. And since the kitchen would be hot from the fire, I might even employ a lady or two to walk around topless. Now don’t laugh, I read that his kitchens were so hot Henry the 8th had to give orders that the scullions (kitchen servants that do menial work) “should stop going about ‘naked’”.  The Little Woman would not approve much (actually, at all) of any naked scullions hanging around – so fear not.

Back to the food: I like sauces, gravies, soups, gumbos and salsas. I think food should rest in its natural juice. I don’t care much for a piece of meat garnished with a side of something, usually a dry lump of something. To me, that’s like a drink with a paper umbrella.

I like dark ale to a pale lager, a Cabernet to a Pinot Noir and anchovies over sardines. That would make me Mediterranean. So, I lean more toward food from Italy, France, Spain and Sardinia; which, I’m still petitioning to change its name from Sardinia to Anchovianini. Hey, it could happen. Oh, and I like classical guitar music over rock-n-roll.

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Everyone has a favorite lasagna recipe. Mine does not come out of a box and is not crusty or hard. Mine is made with soft fresh pasta, a light turkey Ragù – Roman style and a savory cheesy Béchamel sauce.

A few tips to consider.

Bacon: Typically Roman Ragù calls for prosciutto. The challenge is locating prosciutto thickly cut. Most is cut thinly for Antipasto. Prosciutto has a tendency to be a salty pork flavor rather than sweet.  Instead, I find a lean cut of bacon hardwood smoked. I boil water; turn off the heat and let the bacon soak in the water 8 minutes. This cuts down the smoky flavor. Then I drain and chop the bacon.

Peeling tomatoes: The best way to do this is boil water, then with a sharp knife cut an “X” into the top and bottom of the tomato. Let the tomato boil for 8 minutes. Remove and cool under cold water and peel the skin starting at the “X”. This makes it real easy.

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Preparation: It is far easier to prepare this dish in stages rather than rush all at once.  I rely heavily on a large and small food processor.

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Ingredients:

Lasagna: (“Are a wide, flat pasta shape, and possibly one of the oldest types of pasta”)

1 ¼ cups flour
2 eggs
1 TBSP olive oil
(Extra flour for rolling board)

Turkey Ragù – Roman Style:

2 strips bacon, soaked in water 8 minutes, finely chopped
1 Lb. ground turkey
½ onion – finely chopped
1 medium carrot – finely chopped
1 celery stalk – finely chopped
1 garlic clove – thinly sliced
3 TBSP olive oil
3 TBSP tomato paste
¾ cup dry red wine
3 Roma tomatoes – peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper

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Cheesy Béchamel Sauce:

5 TBSP butter
5 TBSP flour
½ onion – finely chopped
2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
½ cup Italian Five Cheese mix – shredded
Parmesan cheese – grated

1) Pasta: In a food processor add flour, one egg and olive oil.

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Start the mixer and then add the 2nd egg. Allow to spin until the dough forms into a thick round ball.

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Place dough on a floured board and shape into a thick pancake. Use a pastry cutter and cut into 1 inch by 1 inch strips. Roll out to the desired shape and then cut the ends. Continue this until the dough has been completely rolled. The entire dough will be needed.

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Place the pasta on tray and let stand while the other dishes are started.

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2) Turkey Ragù – Roman Style: Use the 8-8-8 rule. Cook these stages in 8 minutes. Heat the olive oil and with a wood spoon sauté the onion, carrot and celery mix 8 minutes. Add the turkey and bacon and cook on high for 8 minutes until it browns. Add the wine and tomato paste, reduce heat and cook until the wine evaporates – 8 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes and sliced garlic and cook on low for 30 minutes. Allow as much of the liquid to evaporate naturally.

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3) Béchamel Sauce: Heat a 2 quart sauce pan and place in the butter then the flour. Use a heat resistant baking spatula and mix the “white roux”. Add the onions on medium heat and allow the flour to cook about 5 minutes. Then add ½ cup milk and mix into a thick paste. Add another ½ cup and mix. Add another ½ cup and mix. Add the final cup of milk and mix making sure the sauce stays thick but not runny. Mix in the cheese and the bay leaf and leave on a warm heat setting. You want the sauce smooth and creamy, not dry or over cooked. Go slow and mix and cook in stages.

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4) Pasta: Boil water in the very large pot. Set a large bowl with cold water next to it. Place three pasta sheets in the boiling water. Boil 2 minutes, remove the pasta with tongs and place in the cold water. Remove and set aside. Continue this process until all the pasta is cooked.

5) Build the dish: In a heat proof dish with a lid, ladle in some Béchamel sauce, then layer pasta, add some Ragù, layer pasta, then Béchamel sauce, then pasta, some Ragù, pasta, and finish with Béchamel sauce. Then sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

6) Bake in 350° oven 30 to 45 minutes. Serve.

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Or, send me a check and I will mail you some leftovers. 🙂

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Chicken Cacciatore

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In Italian the word Cacciatore means “hunter”. Whatever the hunter catches, mostly rabbits, is cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, green peppers, herbs and wine.

Chicken Cacciatore

Base Sauce:
For each piece of chicken
½ garlic glove crushed
1 Roma tomato skinned chopped
1 TBSP tomato paste (I use Contadina)
1 oz. dry red wine (I use a dark red blend)
1/3 TBSP olive oil

In a skillet heat the olive oil. Sauté garlic in oil. Add the paste and stir. Add the Roma tomato and stir. On low heat cook roughly 20 minutes are until the fluids have evaporated. Add the wine and cook another 20 minutes. Remove and cool. 3 Roma tomatoes should make ½ cup of base sauce.

Dredge Chicken in Flour:
For each piece of chicken
1 piece of chicken (I use thigh)
Salt and pepper chicken
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 produce bag
1 TBSP olive oil (enough to brown the chicken)

Salt and pepper (season) both side of the chicken. Add the flour to the bag. Add the chicken in the bag. Shake bag until the chicken is coated. In a large Dutch oven add the olive oil on exactly medium heat d brown. Remove

Sauté the onions and green pepper:
In a clean pot… (I poured out the oil and cleaned the Dutch oven)
For each piece of chicken
1 TBSP yellow chopped onion
1 TBSP chopped green bell pepper (Some like red, but I use green owing to a New Orleans preference)
1 TBSP chopped celery
(Yellow onion, green bell and celery is considered the New Orleans Trinity Mirepoix)
1/3 garlic clove cut into coins
½ TBSP Olive oil
1 oz. of dry red wine (I use a dark red blend)

In a clean pot sauté the mirepoix in the oil. Add the wine.

Combined:
For each piece of chicken
1/3 bay leaf (Some use oregano and basil)
3 oz. of the prepared sauce
3 oz. of your favorite can sauce
1 oz. of dry red wine (I use a dark red blend)
Salt and pepper

Add the sauce, wine, salt and pepper, taste add the bay leaf, chicken. Don’t stir, just combine. Bring to a boil. Set to the smallest burner and simmer on low for 45 minutes.

Serve over thin spaghetti.