Like, really cold. And it’s only going to get worse tomorrow. But it’s not just Chicago–basically, all weather everywhere is going completely bonkers. And the only thing I want to do when that happens is to stay home and cook in my PJ’s.
But I wasn’t always like that. I didn’t start experimenting with recipes and new foods until after college. But there were still a few staples I knew how to make, and Chicken Piccata was one of them (I even made it in a dorm kitchen once). It was also the first real meal I learned to cook. My dad had been making it for a few years, and I decided to try my hand at it one night for my boyfriend and my sister. It wasn’t a perfect experience (it was the first time I had actually ever cooked chicken) but it tasted pretty good. I also didn’t kill anyone, and the boyfriend ended up marrying me, so I think all’s well that ends well.
I stopped needing a recipe a long time ago. It’s one of my ultimate comfort foods, and I think it’s the perfect thing to try out when all you want to do is eat a good meal and sit on the couch in your PJ’s.
2 cups cooked rice or 1 lb cooked angel hair pasta
Large saute pan with room for liquid
Chef’s knife (for cutting chicken, lemon, parsley and garlic)
1. Start cooking either rice or pasta so that it’s ready to go once your other elements are done. Then cut your chicken breasts as necessary (or keep them thick, they’ll just take longer to cook), and pat them dry with a paper towel. Salt and pepper each side and lightly coat it in flour. Shake off any excess flour, or the outside will get soggy instead of crispy and delicious
2. Turn the heat on med/high and wait for it to heat up. Then add some olive oil, swirl it to coat the bottom of the pan and put in your chicken. Hot pan, cold oil, and your meat won’t stick as much. My dad taught me that. Thanks, dad! Cook chicken on both sides until it is brown and cooked through (3-5 mins per side depending on how thick the chicken breasts are. The thinner the chicken, the faster it cooks!) Set aside in either a warming drawer or on a plate covered in aluminum foil while you make the sauce.
3.Put a little more olive oil in the pan and turn the heat down a bit. Brown the garlic. Don’t burn it (though I often do, so don’t worry if your garlic is more on the blackened side–the sauce will still taste good).
4. Once your garlic is browned, it’s time to add your chicken stock and de-glaze the pan. De-glazing is a wonderful thing. When you pour cold liquid into a hot pan, some kind of sciency thing happens and the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan loosen up. So through the smoke (there will be a lot of it) you take your spatula and scrape the bottom of the pan until you’ve gotten all of those bits of chickeny goodness loose and into the sauce. It gives the sauce more flavor, and it makes the pan much easier to clean later. The dishwasher will salute you. Because you shouldn’t be doing the dishes, you cooked.
5. Throw in the lemon slices. So pretty. I love lemon. I use fresh lemons in a lot of my cooking, and I think it’s because of this recipe.
6. Next, you’re going to thicken the sauce. You can use corn starch if you have it on hand, but flour works as well. Take a spoonful, put it in a small bowl and add a little bit of coldwater. Stir it until it dissolves.
7. Slowly add the corn starch or flour mixture to the sauce, stirring as you pour. If you were to put either into the hot liquid it would just create chunks in the sauce and nobody wants that. Trust me. I did it once. It was gross and almost inedible. Almost. Let that simmer/boil and reduce for about 5 minutes.
Let me introduce you to my good friend: capers. What are capers, you ask? They’re some sort of pickled flower bud. Sounds weird, tastes delicious. They also go great with salmon.
8. Mmmmm. My friend Ashton lovingly calls them ‘buds.’ She also eats the lemon rinds when I make this for her. I love her dearly. Hi, Ashton! Throw in 2-3 heaping fork-fulls of capers and the lemon juice. Let simmer/reduce for another 5 minutes.
9. Turn the heat down to very low and cut up a little more than 1/2 a stick of butter and put it into the sauce. Yeah. Lots of butter. That’s why it tastes so awesome. Also throw in the parsley. But don’t use this much parsley. I kind of overdid it on the parsley. Don’t be like me.
10. Throw in a splash of heavy cream (forgot to take a picture of that, oops) and stir the butter and parsley into the sauce.
Serve over the chicken and either rice or pasta. Really, either is fine. They’re both delicious. I’ve had it both ways. Leftover sauce also works great as a risotto addition. I know. I’m blowing your mind right now. But we rarely have enough leftover sauce for that, because my sister and I like our chicken and rice to have enough room to swim.
She may or may not have tilted the bowl and drank the sauce like it was juice. On more than one occasion…