Chicken Piccata

  Chicken Piccata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Chicken Piccata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “It’s Friday Night Again”

The Set-up: Ina is trying to jazz up the usual Friday night chicken with a new menu.

The Menu: Chicken Piccata, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Herb Roasted Onions, Apple and Pear Crisp

0:45 – It just occurred to me how similar this menu is to the episode I watched last week - I must have chicken, mashed potatoes and apple desserts on the brain!

1:10 – We’re starting off with the Apple and Pear Crisp as Ina extolls the virtues of Fuji apples and Bosc pears. (Firm, crisp, flavorful)

2:19 – A gentle scolding from Ina for the fruit pressers out there – stop leaving an imprint of your thumb in all the pears! (subtext)

3:32 – I’m glad to hear that Ina calls that sticky pie filling stuff “goo” – a woman after my own heart, because what other word really works?

4:26 – Crunchy oatmeal streusel topping time – mmmmm. Not to toot my own horn, but this one from my Apple Spice Coffee Cake is an all time favorite.

5:53 – Ina is using diced cold butter, but the resulting clumps of topping almost make it seem like it was partially softened. How does she get that texture? Maybe by using the mixer?

6:45 – Out in the garden to collect some blue muscari, bulbs and all, for decorating the table.

7:04 – Ina recommends following the design principle of grouping things in threes, so she has three vases of flowers.

10:17 – Maybe this is too retro, but I think Ina’s goal of making home, especially dinner, welcoming for Jeffrey after a long week on the road. If I were spending most of my time in airports I’d want something cozy waiting too.

11:38 – Onward to the Herb Roasted Onions. Once I “discovered” roasting a few years ago it quickly became my favorite way to transform vegetables from sort of “meh” when boiled to amazing.

12:26 – She’s upping the ante on these onions by tossing them in a mustard thyme vinaigrette before roasting. Brilliant.

13:02 – A quick glimpse of Mr. Garten zipping along on his drive home before we’re back to make Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes.

14:35 – Pro Tip#1: Heat the milk and butter before adding to the mashed potatoes, but DON’T heat the buttermilk, or it will curdle.

15:44 – Dinner is 75% there, last but not least: Chicken Piccata.

20:39 – I really dislike breading things, but I have a feeling these will be worth it.

21:23 – Watching Ina’s technique and I noticed she keeps a “clean hand” and a “dirty hand” to prevent contamination – filing that one away.

22:50 – I am determined to master crispy sautéing – so tricky to get the oil just right!

23:08 – Mr. Garten arrives as the chicken goes into the oven to finish cooking. Perfect timing!

26:22 – The cork on some white wine has been popped (hellooo weekend!) and Ina is making the lemon sauce for the Chicken Piccata.

27:01 – Chicken, lemon, white wine – oh my goodness this has my name all over it.

28:57 – Finishing touch time – a little leftover marinade on the onions, a spoonful of lemon sauce on the chicken, a spoonful of buttermilk mashed potatoes. So hungry just watching.

29:46 – Over the Apple and Pear Crisp that lured Jeffrey into the kitchen he says he wishes there was more than one Friday night in a week. Adorable! 

  Chicken Piccata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Chicken Piccata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Final Thoughts:
Tossing vegetables in a vinaigrette sounds like an awesome way to up the ante on roasting.

Just realized that Ina has some favorite combinations – chicken + mashed potatoes + apple dessert = happy husband.

Lord, I just love how sweet Ina and Jeffrey are after 40(?) years of marriage.

Lessons Learned:
Even though Chicken Piccata is a relatively simple dish there's still a ton to learn while making it.

Oil Temperature – I’ve been trying to master browning bread crumbs for some time now, but I always seem to either burn them immediately because the oil is too hot, or they stay pale and greasy because the oil is too cold. Heat the oil on medium for 2-3 minutes until it shimmers a little in the pan, just a slight ripple in the surface before adding the chicken and reduce to medium-low if it seems like it’s browning too quickly.

Breading – I admit, I misread the recipe and used Panko bread flakes instead of bread crumbs. Thankfully they work just fine! I also tried the technique of chilling the breaded chicken on a plastic wrap lined baking sheet before sautéing and found that my coating didn’t budge (even when left over night.) This step also makes it possible to do most of the prep ahead of time and cook the chicken just before serving. Booyah.

Portion Size – This is sometimes tricky, but if you can buy chicken breasts or cutlets that are on the smaller side, say 3-4 ounces each, or cut larger ones in half. Mainly because once they’re pounded flat they get quite a bit bigger and can mess with your cooking time. Learned that the hard way with Parmesan Chicken. With the smaller size at 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick I found that the cooking time (2 minutes per side, plus about 10 minutes in the oven) was perfect.

  Chicken Piccata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Chicken Piccata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Fairly, assuming you have three or four large plates. I used a rolling pin to flatten the chicken), four dinner plates, a baking sheet, one medium sauté pan, a small cutting board, a chef’s knife, metal spatula, and both dry and liquid measuring cups and spoons. An instant read meat thermometer will also give you peace of mind.

The secret weapon of this recipe: clear plastic wrap. It turns your counter into another plate or prevents contaminating a clean plate with chicken. Second runner up: parchment paper. Such a help with clean up and it seems to encourage crisping during the baking stage.

The Verdict:
When Mike and I first sat down for dinner to Chicken Piccata neither of us were that hungry for some reason and I foolishly suggested that we just share one. But, after the first bite of these crispy, golden pieces of chicken we both found that we had bigger appetites than we originally thought – suddenly sharing seemed ridiculous! The breading was crispy, the chicken juicy, the lemon lovely and tart against the richness of the olive oil. Seriously good. Please make this!

  Chicken Piccata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Chicken Piccata | Image: Laura Messersmith