Don't worry, I'm not blogging about anything disgusting today. Let's try to get back on track with a recipe for a change.
Recently, I've been craving standard Italian chicken dishes. You know the ones: chicken piccata, chicken marsala, chicken cacciatore. You can find them on the menus of throwback Italian restaurants from the ubiquitous Olive Garden to more localized institutions like the Chateau in Waltham.
My cousin dropped me off an amazing book last month called Italy: The Country and Its Cuisine. That's mainly what I was reading in bed when I was sick. It's a giant, heavy 500-page hardcover cookbook filled with photographs of the food and landscape of Italy. It's pretty spectacular. No wonder I was starving half to death.
As soon as I was up and about, I was determined to make chicken piccata, a personal favorite of mine. I sliced the chicken breasts in half the flat way, dredged them in flour, browned them, and then smothered them in a pan sauce of lemon juice, capers, parsley, and butter. YUM! Next up was chicken marsala. (Sorry, kids, we're having chicken all week!) Same deal with the chicken cutlets: slice, flour, brown, remove. Then I sautéed up some shallots and mushrooms, deglazed with marsala wine, and maybe sprinkled a little marjoram on top. Yes, I did lick the pan the sauce was in clean. What of it?
The chicken cacciatore was something new for me. I don't think I've ever made it before. That may change since I learned that cacciatore means "hunter-style," so basically this stew is what the Italian hunters made on their campgrounds with whatever they had on hand. Think browned pieces of rabbit or fowl plus vegetables, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, herbs, and wine. I imagine the Italians carry bottles of wine with them everywhere they go, especially on hunting trips. If they don't, please don't spoil this image for me. The image of a dark-skinned Italian with a bottle of wine under one arm, truffles in his pocket, and a partridge slung over his shoulder. Yeah. The next time I go mushroom-hunting, you can bet I'll be making this, though my recent version relied on regular white buttons. I didn't want to tempt the Vomit Gods so soon.
I'm moving these three chicken dishes into the dinnertime rotation. They're classic for a reason.
There are lots of variations on this theme that use garlic, shallots, and white wine. Experiment and find your favorite. This is ours.
2-3 boneless chicken breasts, skin removed
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4-5 Tbsps. olive oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
1/4 cup capers
2 Tbsp. Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Wash and dry the chicken breasts in cold water. Take each breast and butterfly it, meaning hold the knife parallel to the cutting board and slice along its width. I cut all the way through to make two thinner pieces of meat, but feel free to keep the breast intact if you like bigger portions, opening up the two sides which are now held together by a meaty hinge.
Season breasts with salt and pepper, and dredge with flour. Shake off excess.
Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In two batches, cook the chicken breasts until brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is brown, 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate. Add more oil to the pan as needed for the second batch.
To the empty pan, add the stock, lemon juice, and capers. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken breasts and their juices to the pan and simmer uncovered on low until sauce has reduced and chicken is heated through, 4-5 minutes. Remove chicken and whisk butter and parsley into sauce. Serve chicken over pasta and spoon sauce over the top.