Birthday Epiphany & Chicken Piccata

As you all know, food plays a dominant role in my life memories.  This one is especially important to me because it helped shape my future and become the foodie that I am today.  One year I got a crazy idea and decided to fly out for my sister’s birthday to help her celebrate in person.  Never having tried this for someone else (except David), I thought: I’ll cook Cheryl a meal!  I had just figured out Chicken Piccata at home and deemed it a perfect meal to pull off in someone else’s kitchen.  It was in her kitchen where I realized what a true joy it was for me to cook and share the love with others; a life-changing epiphany that significantly influenced my career path.  I can remember standing in front of the stove while sautéing the chicken, listening to the comforting chatter of family around me and being overcome with a strong joy and happiness in my heart.  I had discovered my passion!  And I was making a meal to show how much I cared about someone, an ultimate expression for me.  It goes straight to my food soul.  While I can’t be there this year to cook Cheryl a meal, this post is in honor of her birthday today.  I am happy to share it with you: Chicken Piccata with Roasted Smashed Potatoes.

For those not familiar with Chicken Piccata, it’s made with tender, thin cutlets of chicken sautéed golden brown and served with a pan sauce made with wine, lemon, capers and butter.  The flavors are rich, silky and bright.  An Italian classic, piccata is traditionally made with veal cutlets; using chicken cutlets appears to be an American adaptation.  The term piccata translates to pounded thin and the traditional cooking method is to dredge the meat in seasoned flour, sauté it in olive oil and make a light sauce from the pan drippings.  I’m a sauce girl so I add chicken broth for more liquid.  And to make it easy to dredge the chicken, I use a small paper bag.   For the two of us, I use one large chicken breast (about .60 lb), cut into four cutlets and pounded thin. 

Capers have a pleasant tartness to them and are fun to cook with.  They are flower buds, usually from the caper plant, and either pickled or salted to use as a garnish or seasoning.  There are four classifications based on size, ranging from 7mm to 14+mm.  The most popular are the smallest buds called non-pareil.  Interestingly, the organic capers that I picked up from the store (pictured here) are from the juniper bush, as listed on the manufacturer’s website.  Using either kind, these little guys are also incredible when fried.  They become crispy, salty morsels that are perfect for garnishing salads and fish.

I saw a recipe for roasted smashed potatoes a few years ago that called for small round potatoes.  They looked scrumptious and just my style but I didn’t have the potatoes, so I filed it away mentally.  While grocery shopping recently I came across small red potatoes labeled as a one-bite variety (about an inch round) and thought they would be a fun side dish for this meal since Cheryl loves roasted potatoes.  Plus, it gave me an excuse to try something new.  Remember how I love anything fried, especially potatoes?  Well, these fit right in; the outside is crispy and crunchy with a slightly sweet, tender middle.  I roasted them in a 375 degree oven (with olive oil, salt & pepper) until tender and smashed them with a sturdy coffee cup (first tried a wide, large spatula and they popped out of the pan), and put them back in a 425 degree oven until they were golden and crispy.  Fabulous!  Garnish with fresh parsley, pepper and sea salt (parmesan would be wonderful as well). They are also the perfect side to serve with breakfast.

Often, our passions are fed when we are happily and completely engaged in doing something we love.  I am glad I was listening to my heart that evening at Cheryl’s because it’s why I’m here today, obsessing about food and sharing my stories with you. In honor of that, Happy Birthday to Cheryl!   Thanks for being my big sister, helping me dream and always encouraging me.

Eat well and share the love…..and follow your dreams.

Chicken Piccata
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two    (April 2011)

Serves two foodies

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut in four pieces lengthwise and pounded thin)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, dry mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 lemon slices, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons capers
¼ cup white wine
½ cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons flat-leaf parsley
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oven to 250 degrees and place an oven-proof serving platter on rack (to keep chicken cutlets warm while making sauce).  In a small paper bag add the flour and spices, mix together.

In a medium skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ tablespoon butter and heat over medium-high heat.  Dredge chicken cutlets individually in flour mixture in paper bag.  Shake off the excess flour and add to the hot pan; sauté the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown and turn over.  Add a drizzle of olive oil around the edge and middle of pan along with ½ tablespoon butter; sauté another 3 minutes until golden brown.  Turn heat off and transfer cutlets to a plate in the warm oven while making the sauce.

Return skillet to medium heat and add the wine and chicken stock to deglaze the pan; cook for 3 to 4 minutes until reduced.  Add capers, 1 tablespoon butter, lemon slices, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Let cook for 2 minutes or until butter is melted, stir through.  Remove serving platter and chicken from oven and pour sauce over chicken cutlets.  Serve immediately.

3 responses to “Birthday Epiphany & Chicken Piccata

  1. Cheryl Hogate Johns

    Melissa, thank you for such a wonderful birthday post! It took me back to that weekend you cooked for me and we shared a bottle of Petite Petit – great memories! I do love my roasted potatoes and plan on trying this yummy recipe on my own. I love you <3<3

  2. Yummy! What a great birthday gift for your sister.

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