Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dad's Chicken Piccata, a Light and Healthy Variation

Chicken piccata is a wonderful dish with Italian origins. Traditionally, a thin cut of meat is dredged in flour and pan fried. The drippings are then used to create a pan sauce with the addition of white wine, lemon juice, capers, and butter. Though this is delicious, the amount of butter and oil called for in most recipes doesn't exactly make it healthy.
 
In case you're new to the blog, my mom is very health-conscious, so of course she wouldn't want something fried if it could be cooked any other way; she considers flour and butter "empty calories." Me? I'm not quite as adversarial when it comes to that sort of thing. My dad isn't either for that matter. However, living with my mom for over 36 years has rubbed off on him somewhat, if only to keep her happy. Luckily, even though they are both concerned with health, they are also very concerned with flavor. My dad has apparently been tweaking this recipe for the better part of a decade to get it to a point where the chicken is juicy and flavorful without relying on a fried cutlet and lots of butter. It all comes down to his method of letting the chicken gently simmer in lemon juice and vermouth in a tightly covered skillet after an initial saute. The results are wonderful.
 
Below you will find my write up for his method of cooking a light and delicious chicken "piccata." Enjoy!
 
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Dad's Chicken Piccata, a Light and Healthy Variation
Inspired from a long lost Publix recipe card

Yield: 4 chicken breast cutlets

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 25 minutes+

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, freshly squeezed (about 1/2 cup)
1/2-3/4 cup extra dry vermouth,
2 tablespoons capers (do not rinse off brine)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Heat a wide, heavy bottomed skillet (that has a lid) over medium to medium-high heat. [Skip this step if using a nonstick skillet.]

Meanwhile, butterfly chicken breasts and then cut them in half to create 4 thin cutlets. If needed, pound cutlets between sheets of plastic wrap with a mallet to even out their thickness. Season each side with salt and pepper to taste.

Add olive oil to the hot pan and allow it to heat up, but do not let the oil smoke. Add cutlets to hot oil; turn after 2-3 minutes. Cook another 2-3 minutes until chicken is almost done.

With chicken still in the pan, add lemon juice, scraping any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Cover and gently simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn chicken over and then add the vermouth; cover and let simmer for at least 10-15 minutes, turning the chicken at least one more time. Stir in capers 5 minutes before serving.

Garnish with parsley. Serve with orzo, another type of pasta, or rice. Extra sauce can be spooned over the chicken and pasta/rice.

Dad's Notes:
-Keeping the chicken covered during the cooking process is what helps keep it tender and juicy; don't uncover the chicken in an attempt to help reduce the sauce -- instead, it will dry out the chicken some.
-The chicken can be gently simmered for up to an hour in the sauce with no adverse side effects if you're not ready to serve it right away. More vermouth can be added if too much of the sauce has evaporated.
-The quality of the vermouth does make a noticeable difference in the final dish. Rivata has been our favorite brand.

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