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.

Asparagus and Brie Tartlets

Asparagus & Brie TartletsThis is lovely as an hors d’oeuvre, or two per person as an appetizer. You can par-bake the wonton wrappers ahead of time, just make sure to weigh them down with something so that you retain the cup shape. I suggest dried beans or pie weights. This recipe will make 12 tartlets, but can easily be doubled. You can even make this into one large tart by layering the wrappers on the bottom of a tart pan, and then just topping with all of the filling and brie. I would suggest slightly cooking the tart first though, before adding the filling, so that it can crisp up a bit.

Ingredients:

24 wonton wrappers, thawed
2 ½ tablespoons butter, divided
24 asparagus spears, cut into 1” lengths (about 2 bunches)*
1 shallot, diced*
¼ cup white wine or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
4 oz. (120g) brie, sliced into 12 pieces/wedges
salt and pepper, to taste

* Click here to learn how to check these vegetables.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt about 1 ½ tablespoons of butter in a microwave or small saucepan. Brush each wonton wrapper with the melted butter and press two wrappers into each mould of a muffin tin. When placing the wrappers I find it easier to align them first out of the tin, then press them in. You should have one wrapper square in front of you, with the flat edge facing you, and then another wrapper on top, but turned 90 degrees, so that the point is in front of you.

In a saucepan, melt remaining butter on medium heat and cook asparagus for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a fork or slotted spoon to keep the melted butter in the pan. In the same saucepan, cook the shallot for about 2 minutes. Add the white wine, and let it simmer until it has reduced by half. Add vinegar and reduce once again by half.

Pour the shallot/wine/vinegar mixture over the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Divide asparagus and Brie among the muffin moulds lined with wonton wrappers. Bake on the bottom oven rack for 15 minutes or until wonton wrappers are golden brown. Serve warm.