Chicken Piccata

Chicken Picatta

Last on our tour of schnitzel around the world is the Italian inspired chicken piccata. Even though the exact origin of chicken piccata is unclear, it definitely comes from the Italian culture, but it has been hard for Italians and Americans to narrow down exactly what the word “piccata” means. When translating it from Italian to English, it has several different meanings and originates from several Italian words, the result being a mixture of possibilities.  It is unsure whether chicken piccata was made by Italians in Italy or by Italian immigrants after they came over to the United States around the early 1930s. The name for a lemon and butter sauce differs in the various regions of Italy as well, making it hard to track down the exact location it originated from.

One of the main reasons piccata is so popular though is because it is known as a fairly fast and economical dish. The piccata sauce is said to be the perfect blend of salty, acidic and buttery flavors, then broth or wine is added to complete it. There are many different variations of piccata. The classic Italian sauce usually consists of lemon, broth/wine, butter, salt and pepper and other ingredients are sometimes added to the lemon sauce like capers, parsley or even garlic to spice things up a bit and usually finished off by adding salt and pepper so it’s not too bland. Traditionally, the chicken may only be dusted in flour before being lightly fried, but you can also lightly bread it as I have in the recipe here. It will give the chicken a little more substance, and by flavouring the breadcrumbs, give another layer of seasoning, I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded very thin (about ¼” thick)
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 ½ cups breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 eggs, lightly whisked
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, or as needed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup white wine
1 lemon, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
¼ cup margarine
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced*

* Click here to learn how to clean parsley.

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Place a serving platter into the oven to warm. Place the breadcrumbs on a large plate, and season them with the garlic powder and lemon zest. Place the flour on a separate plate, and season it with the salt and pepper. Place the whisked eggs in a bowl. Dip the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess. Then dip the chicken in the eggs, then in the breadcrumbs, pressing firmly to coat. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet and pan-fry the chicken until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Work in batches and do not over crowd the skillet, adding more oil as needed. Place the chicken onto the warmed platter in the oven.

When you are finished with all of the chicken, drain most of the oil from the skillet, leaving a thin coating on the surface of the pan. Cook and stir the minced garlic and shallot in the skillet until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the white wine, and scrape up and dissolve any brown bits that may have become stuck on the bottom of the skillet. Add the chicken broth and lemon slices, and bring the mixture to a boil. Let the sauce cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces by about a third, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the lemon juice and capers, and simmer again until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes more. Drop the margarine into the skillet and swirl it into the sauce by tilting the skillet until the margarine is melted and incorporated. Add the parsley, and remove the sauce from heat and set aside. Arrange the chicken on a serving plate and spoon the sauce over to serve.

Steak Tartare

Steak tartare

So to round out the end of our look at some raw dishes, how about the classic steak tartare? So I did a little digging into the background on this dish. I had always thought it had something to do with the Tatar people of Central Asia, and how they were so fierce in battle that they didn’t take time to cook their meat, they would just travel with it under their saddles so that the meat was tenderised enough by riding that it could just be eaten raw between bouts of fighting. Apparently this is a kitchen urban legend and the dish really has nothing to do with them at all.

Now here is where it gets a little confusing. The original recipe, which was quite popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, was served “à la tartare” or “with tartar sauce”, and really wasn’t anything like our modern day steak tartare. In the early 20th century, they came out with a variation on this recipe called “Steack à l’Americaine” which resembled what we are more familiar with, raw ground beef and raw egg. Over time, the distinction between the two dishes disappeared, with the name from one and the recipe from the other sticking around.

Ingredients

2 pounds trimmed beef rib-eye roast
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 egg yolks
⅓ cup canola oil
6 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed, drained, and minced
3 tablespoons minced parsley*
1 ¾ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce**
½ teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
5-6 cornichons, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
french fries, for serving
mixed salad greens, for serving*
toast points, melba toast, crackers, for serving

* Click here to learn how to properly clean parsley and salad greens.
** Click here to learn about using Worcestershire sauce with meat.

Directions:

Place beef in the freezer to firm, about 30 minutes; this will make it easier to chop finely. Meanwhile, whisk mustard and egg yolks in a large bowl; while whisking constantly, slowly pour in oil to create a mayonnaise.

Add capers, parsley, Worcestershire, hot sauce, cornichons, and onion, and season with salt and pepper; refrigerate flavourings until ready to use.

Remove beef from freezer and cut into ¼ inch cubes. Transfer beef to bowl of flavourings and stir to combine. Keep beef mixture chilled until ready to serve.

To serve, divide beef mixture into 4 to 6 equal portions, and shape each into an oval disk, or you can get fancy and use a cookie cutter or tin to shape your tartare. Serve immediately with toast points, crackers, fries and greens.

One Pot Pasta Alla Puttanesca with Chickpeas & Artichokes

alla-puttanesca

So this spicy, red pasta dish is a favourite for those that like spicy, briny, salty dishes. While the meaning of the name can denote different things, depending on which part of Italy you come from, in the end it is a delicious, hearty meal that is sure to please. While some recipes call for the use of anchovies, this recipe, in its one-pot format, does not. It also does not call for cheese, however a sprinkling of parmesan over top at the end is always a hit in my book.

Two items to note in this recipe for 6, the artichokes and the amount of broth needed. There is great debate over the use of artichoke bottoms or hearts in the kosher community. Some lucky cooks can find canned artichokes with reputable hechshers, but for the rest of us, I find using the bottoms found in the frozen section a good substitute. With regards to the type of pasta used, you may find that you have to add more broth when using whole wheat compared to regular pasta. I say start with the lower amount, and as it’s cooking, you can add more if needed. Please note though if you add more broth, make sure it’s hot, so that it doesn’t delay the cooking time of the rest of the dish.

Ingredients:

1 (500g) box whole wheat or regular long noodle pasta
½ – 1 cup sliced black olives, such as Kalamata
1 ½ bags frozen artichoke bottoms, mostly defrosted and chopped (total amount of 21 ounces)
¾ (540ml) can canned chickpeas, low sodium
3 tablespoons capers
1 medium white or yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ (796ml) can diced tomatoes, low sodium
1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes (reduce to ¼ teaspoon if sensitive to heat)
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper (reduce to 1/3 teaspoon if freshly ground)
4 ½ – 6 cups vegetable broth (you may need to add more broth depending on what type of pasta you use)
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

Directions:

In a large pot, add the pasta noodles, breaking them in half if needed to fit, and then the rest of the ingredients, pouring the broth over everything last. Drizzle the olive oil over the whole dish.

Cover your pot and bring the contents up to a boil. Once you’ve reached a boil, remove the lid and give the contents a good stir, to help keep the pasta from sticking together. Return the cover and reduce the heat to a steady simmer (medium to medium-low heat). Cook for an additional 8-10 more minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until the pasta is cooked through and al dente.

If you find that there is a bit too much liquid in your dish, let the pasta sit for a little bit off the heat, and the pasta will absorb the excess liquid. If you have leftovers, I suggest tossing them with a little olive oil before storing in the fridge.

Citrus Dill Gravlax

GravlaxSo how can you be a kosher cooking blog having a week highlighting fish, and not touch on Lox? It’s a Jewish staple! Confession time… up until a few months ago I could not stand Lox of any kind. Even the smell or thought of it turned me off completely. Now I seem obsessed with it! I don’t like it… I LOVE it! Better late than never I guess!

Now I realize that Gravlax is not Lox. Lox is cured through smoking while Gravlax is cured in a salt/acid mixture. The tastes and textures though are quite similar. That, and you can make Gravlax easily at home… Lox, not so much (I’m not counting those that have their own personal smokers at home). This dish takes a while to cure, but in truth, very little effort to make. Trust me this will be a HUGE hit at your next party and your guests will be incredibly impressed.

Ingredients:

Gravlax:
1 (1-pound) salmon fillet, skin on
1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
zest of 1 orange**
zest of ½ lime**
zest of ½ lemon**
1 ½ tablespoons tequila/vodka/gin (plus more if needed)
1 cup chopped fresh dill, divided*

Sauce:
2 tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill*
¼ teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

To serve:
Melba toasts or toast points
capers
sliced onion
dill sprigs

* Click here to learn about cleaning dill.
** Click here for my tips on zesting citrus.

Directions:

For Gravlax: Heat the peppercorns in a small skillet over medium-high heat until spices are fragrant and seeds jump slightly, shaking skillet frequently, about 2 minutes. Crush spices in mortar with pestle or transfer to work surface, cover with kitchen towel (not terry cloth), and crush with mallet or bottom of heavy pan. Transfer spices to small bowl. Mix in salt, sugar, and the zests of the orange, lemon and lime.

Trim the fillet so that it is uniform in size. Using small sharp knife, poke 12 small holes through skin of both pieces of salmon. Rub ⅓ of spice mixture over skin. Sprinkle ⅓ cup chopped dill in bottom of 7x7x2-inch or 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish. Place the salmon, skin side down, on top of the dill. Pour the alcohol over the fish. Rub the remaining spice mixture onto the top of the salmon. Then press the remaining chopped dill into salmon. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto fish. Place a small plate or smaller dish on top of the plastic, so that it makes direct contact with the wrapped fish. Place some heavy cans on plate so that the fish is weighted down. Refrigerate 2 to 3 days, checking on it once or twice a day, and basting the fish with the juices produced by the curing process. On the second day of curing, slice off a small piece and taste it. If it doesn’t taste like it’s getting there, add a little more salt and/or alcohol on the fish.

For Sauce: Whisk mustard and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil. Stir in chopped dill and salt. Season with ground black pepper. (Sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

To Serve: Scrape spices and dill off both sides of salmon (some spice mixture will remain). Using knife with long thin blade, thinly slice salmon diagonally at 45-degree angle from top of fillet toward skin. Cut with a back and forth sawing motion toward the narrow end to remove a thin slice of fish. Start each succeeding slice a bit farther in from the narrow end; always cut at a flat angle to keep the slices as long and thin as possible. Serve with Melba toasts, toast points, capers, dill, onions and the mustard sauce.