Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spice Blends and Adventures in Lemon Chicken

I've ordered lemon chicken, chicken piccata and variations thereof over the years, but I never actually made it until a few weeks ago. I started with this recipe from Cooking Light. It caught my eye because of the capers. I like capers a lot, and so does my sweetie. Let's deconstruct:

  • 4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 3  tablespoons  all-purpose flour--I usually do not measure out the flour I need for dredging, nor do I usually measure the amounts of salt and pepper I put on meat. for me it's pure eyeballing. Trust yourself.
  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4  cup  fresh lemon juice
  • 2  tablespoons  capers, drained
  • 3  tablespoons  minced flat-leaf parsley
 Next, we have some fun, with a little setup. Be careful not to scare your neighbors:

1. Place chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to an even thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish; dredge chicken in flour.

Tenderizing meat this way is pure fun. I bought a tenderizer for just the occasion, smooth on one side, rough on the other. It cost me about fifteen bucks and has some heft to it. It would also make a great murder weapon, but I digress (my other hobby is writing mystery novels, what can I say?)

2. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes. Turn chicken over. Add broth, juice, and capers; reduce heat to medium, and simmer 3 minutes, basting chicken occasionally with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley; cook 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

3. Bring sauce to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thick. Serve over chicken.

The directions on this recipe are pretty straightforward, and I appreciated the chance to make a simple dish that's reasonably low in fat.

But the sauce never came together for me, I don't know what it was, but the sauce just tasted like lemon juice. No body, no depth to it.

So, I tried it again a few weeks, making two changes; I added a teaspoon of dried oregano (this didn't add anything, to my disappointment and adding a 1/4 cup of white wine (Snow Goose from the local McLaughlin vineyards. The wine gave the sauce a depth that was missing, but I still wasn't satisfied.

My sweetie and I moved last weekend, and I had our first grocery order delivered the day we hooked up the cable. I'd ordered some chicken, some fresh basil and I got to thinking.

The spices were upnacked (they were pretty easy to find, unlike our big Wusthof knife which is still missing) and I remembered a long time ago, a friend had a Pampered Chef catalog, and I'd ordered a lemon-basil rub, that was quite nice, and unlike a lot of spice blends, was not full of salt!

Even better, in the unpacking, some lemon-infused oil had turned up. I hadn't seen it for four months! I love flavored oils and vinegars.

I sprinkled the chicken generously with the rub on one side and heated the oil for a few minutes on medium with about a tablespoon of butter added for a little richness. When the butter was melted, I added the chicken, and then sprinkled more rub on.

I turned the chicken after about six minutes, then cooked on the other side for about seven to eight more (your mileage may vary. If you aren't sure your chicken is cooked, pierce it in the middle and see what juices come out. They should be clear and you should see no pink).

Once out of the pan, I topped with some fresh chopped basil. I served it atop a salad of mixed greens with some quinoa (one of my favorite grains by far).

Success! We had tartness, we had freshness, we had body and we had deliciousness.  Next time I think lemon chicken, this is what I'm thinking.

Meanwhile, I'll be looking for a good recipe involving capers. If you have one, won't you let me know?

1 comment:

  1. And it was delicious!

    Capers are wasted if they're left on smoked salmon. They go with, well, not quite everything, but with a lot of things. Like lemon and poultry. Pork chops. Bacon. Chocolate. Hot dogs. Burgers. And of course, everyone's favourite: Daleks.