Chicken Piccata

One of my goals for the near term is to learn how to roast a whole chicken. As it stands now, though, I am trying to get more comfortable with cooking standard chicken breast or thigh dishes.  I’m not sure why, but meat is one of the things I feel most hesitant about when it comes to cooking.  I don’t feel confident with it, and usually when Julian and I cook together, I assign the meat prep to him.  Last night, however, I tried to push out the edges of my comfort zone a little bit.

It wasn’t a particular difficult dish, but still a good one to practice basic skills on: Chicken Piccata. The nice thing about this dish is it actually kills two birds with one stone (two chickens?) in that it involves two recipes: Sauteed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (Basic Recipe) on page 587 of The Joy of Cooking, and Sauteed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts Piccata on page 588. The basic recipe is very simple and contains a method I was already familiar with, though the very light breading is not something I usually do. It also involved more oil and butter than I normally would use in keeping my points down (usually a spray of olive oil is enough) but this was a special dish, so I went all out, bringing the chicken itself to probably about 4 points.

I kept to the recipe as much as I could, but I found that the chicken needed just a little more than the four minutes the recipe called for. Perhaps I had the heat too low. But the texture and color turned out to be just right, so I would call it a success.

The piccata recipe calls for reusing the same pan the chicken was cooked in, to retain all the chickeny goodness.  So I popped the cooked chicken in the oven at 170F to keep it warm while I made the sauce.

The recipe calls for removing all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat in the skillet, but there wasn’t even that much to remove, so I just left the pan as it was. I included the optimal amount of shallots, three heaping tablespoons, because why not? (Shallots are probably in my unsorted top ten favorite ingredients list. Maybe top five.) The rest of the recipe was easy to follow, though I followed it rather hectically as I was also busy preparing the Green Beans with Sauteed Mushrooms recipe found on page 345. The sauce did take much longer to reduce than the recipe called for.

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I served the chicken piccata with a side of rocchetti as well as the green beans and mushrooms.  And of course, a glass of white wine for myself.

The verdict: absolutely delicious.  The chicken was just the right texture, and the sauce sank right into it in a burst of salty, flavorful goodness.  Julian really really loved it, and that, of course, is the greatest achievement for me.  The chicken piccata is a dish I definitely intend to add to my semi-regular repertoire, and the cooking method for the chicken makes me much more confident to try other chicken dishes in the future.

As for the green beans and mushrooms, the result was pretty good, though we agreed that the method called for in the recipe, covering the mushrooms to steam them for about three minutes, resulted in a less than ideal texture, and we will just saute them in the future.

 

Of course, a day off would not be complete without baking some bread, which I also did yesterday. More on that later!

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Cream of Cauliflower Soup

As I write, I am looking out on the woods outside my apartment window, shrouded in clouds as thick as the creamy cauliflower soup I’m eating (a spoonful between each sentence, interspersed with bites of delicious toasted and buttered sourdough bread.)  In about forty-five minutes I have to drag myself out of the comfort of my home to dabble with one of my other hobbies, fashion, at my boutique job. I enjoy my job, but days like this, I’d really rather stay home and bake and keep reading the book that has me glued to my seat– The Story of the Jews (I’m addicted to history books.)

The other night, I tried my first soup recipe from The Joy of Cooking: the Cream of Cauliflower Soup recipe, found on page 95 in the 1997 edition.  It’s a very simple recipe without a lot of complicated ingredients, and it claims to serve as a “blueprint for a multitude of vegetable soups.” I followed the recipe to the T, including the optional white wine and the generous 1/2 cup of heavy cream (well, heavy whipping cream because heavy cream is ridiculously hard to come by for some odd reason.) With all the ingredients included, it comes out to a whopping 9 smartpoints.

It’s an enjoyable soup– the warmth of it spreads right through one’s body, perfect for a cold day when the heater is broken. The white wine gives it a bit of a lemony tang, which I like well enough, but for smartpoints’ sake will probably reduce the amount of for future dinners. It reheats well, as long as you heat it very slowly on a low setting so as not to break the composition of the cream.  It pairs well with some crusty bread and makes for an excellent little lunch, or a dinner snack on Sundays when you’ve had a huge, filling mid-afternoon meal.

As I said, I think I will either skip or reduce the amount of white wine next time, and I am also interested to try it without the cream, as the recipe notes that it works just as well without.  I would be curious to play around with it and add a potato in next time, as I’ve discovered that potatoes can add a natural, lower-point creaminess to soups (thanks to the hordes of vegan recipes I’ve experimented with.) If I try this, I’ll be sure to report to you with the results.

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