I have a friend – a very close friend of mine. Whenever he and I get together, we would almost always go out for Italian food. He was an extremely picky eater and Italian is one of the very few cuisines he likes and even then, his choice of dishes are few. Anyway, we went out for Italian so often that I soon got tired of it. I am the type of person that likes a little variety in my food (in case you couldn’t tell). Even living in an Indian household, as much as I love Indian food, eating it all the time is really not my cup of tea. To give my friend credit where it is due though, he does try once in a while to venture out of his comfort zone and try other types of cuisines like Greek food but he usually came back to the Italian (mind you, he is Indian! But perhaps he is an old Italian man reincarnate).
These days, I rarely see my friend because he lives in a different state for school. But he will be coming back to New York relatively soon for the summer vacation. I am pretty excited. Funnily enough, I suddenly had the craving for Italian food. Maybe in some strange way, this is conditioning? I began to start imagining the best Italian food I have ever had. There were quite a few. The two that came to mind was this one place in Poughkeepsie called Amici’s. They were a little more expensive than usual but my God, it was definitely worth it. The last time I dined there had to be around two years ago so I don’t really recall what I ate. The other restaurant that pops up from my memory is Yonkers’ A&V Family Restaurant – an extremely small mom-and-pop eatery that has the best selection of sauces to go along with your pasta. The best part about the place (besides the actual food and the atmosphere) was that it was cheap!
As a tribute to my sudden desire for Italian food and my friend’s obsession with it (since he is also an avid reader of the blog – Thanks, Al!), I decided I am going to make some Italian food and only hope to make the grandmas of Italy proud. However, I wanted to make something I never really had nor made before. I was always the typical Italian eater – had something that was absolutely festooned with cheese like lasagna or stuffed shells. But this time, I wanted to try out something with chicken. Combining my love of chicken and lemons, I thought I should try out chicken piccata. I was not entirely sure of the specifics of the recipe so I actually looked it up. The sauce looked simple enough and I would add my own “flair” by also adding in mushrooms, capers, and red bell peppers. Chicken is always simple for me. I also thought, since this was something my younger brother cannot have, I will make my homemade mashed potatoes with scallions and garlic – made with rice milk.
Ingredients for [My] Chicken Piccata:
- Chicken breasts (regular or thin ones – I got both) – the amount depends on how many you’re serving. My family eats a lot and we like to pack some for lunch so I made a lot!
- 1 can of reduced sodium chicken broth
- White wine (about a cup or so, whatever you would like)
- Fresh lemon juice
- 1 red bell pepper
- A half pack of baby portabello mushrooms
- Half of a red onion – diced
- As much minced garlic as you want
- 2 tablespoons of capers
- 1 cup of flour
- 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
- Garlic powder
- Salt & pepper
- Olive oil or vegetable oil
- The recipe called for the chicken breasts to be flattened out by hammering whatever life it has out of it. Instead of making scary noises, I decided to just go ahead and buy the already thin chicken breasts. Those that were still thick, I just halved them length-wise to make it thinner.
- I marinated the chicken for about an hour or so with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.
- Meanwhile, I chopped up the onions, mushrooms, and red bell pepper.
- I mixed together, on a clean plate, the flour, the garlic powder (be careful not to confuse it with garlic SALT), and the cheese.
- The recipe called for one egg and breadcrumbs but I didn’t want to make it unnecessarily heavier so I thought the oil from the marination process would be enough to help coat the chicken. After heating up some oil in a large skillet, I floured the chicken lightly and placed it on the pan.
- Cook all the chicken thoroughly. I am a bit paranoid, I cut into the deepest part of each chicken to make sure it was not pink before I transferred it onto another plate.
- When the chicken was all done, I added more oil to the pan and then added in the chopped onion and the garlic until it was softened.
- Then, I added the wine, lemon juice, and chicken broth, scraping up the bits and pieces of the chicken pieces that were left behind.
- I let it go for a while, watching the flavors marry together and become one.
- After a while, I added the mushrooms, the diced bell pepper, and the capers. The capers were salted so I had to rinse it out first before adding it to the sauce.
- Some time had passed and the sauce didn’t seem to be thickening so I added some cornstarch. I know the sauce is typically supposed to be a little runny but I dislike runny sauces (or curries for that matter).
- The recipe didn’t call to do it but I added the chicken back into the sauce so it could have the double duty of flavoring the sauce as well as letting the sauce penetrate through, allowing it to stay moist and flavored.
- I did not add any salt at this point because the sauce was seasoned enough but I did add some pepper.
- After about 20 minutes, the dish was done.
The mashed potatoes did not take as long as the chicken did – probably because I did this so many times, it became like second nature to me. Which is probably why I did not measure out most of anything for this dish…
- 8 or 9 Russett potatoes – peeled and diced
- Rice milk (or whole milk or even cream)
- Minced garlic
- About a tablespoon of sour cream
- I peeled the potatoes and chopped them up in medium-sized pieces. The idea is to increase the surface area of the potatoes so they cook faster.
- I started them in a pot of regular water and brought it up to a boil. That is really important to do! If you just add them to boiling water, the potatoes will not cook all the way through!
- Meanwhile, I chopped up a few stalks of scallions.
- Boil them until they are fork-tender.
- After draining the potatoes, mash them up with your nifty masher while adding in the milk, minced garlic, and scallions. To make it tastier, add a few dabs of butter in there too.
- Serve immediately – it is best when fresh and piping hot.
Now…the chicken piccata – it was good, but it wasn’t GREAT. The recipe sounded great, it really did but I suppose the actual execution wasn’t all that fantastic. When I tasted the sauce while it was bubbling, it was a little too tart for my taste (which is saying something since I love lemons). To try to balance it out, I added a bit more chicken broth but it was still too sour. So I left it alone, thinking there was nothing else that could possibly be done. However, when paired with the chicken, it actually tasted good. Also, the addition of the red bell pepper complimented the sauce and the chicken so well – it was a great “creative flair” decision. The mashed potatoes (left a LITTLE chunky for my own preferences) was the real stomach pleaser. My brother ate a big bowl of it in five minutes! It is safe to say he likes it!
The dish came out well. However, if I were to make this in the future again (which in the near future, I probably would not), I would make it less sour, more gravy-like, and add more of my own style (but then again, it wouldn’t be called piccata, right?). There was so much sauce leftover. I’m going to use that sauce later in the week to make pasta with it. How suddenly versatile!
My stomach is still doing its happy dance though…
So here’s to you, Al! I can’t wait until you get here already and we go out to yet another Italian restaurant! 🙂
UPDATE: Soooo…the chicken tastes SO much better when it’s been sitting for a while! When I had the chicken for lunch the next day and the day after, it was amazing! I suppose the sauce needed time to sit and get even more delicious as time goes on…like aging wine!