Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

Inspiration: Sometimes, B and I just have the sort of night when we want a really healthy meal. We were feeling that way on Saturday, so I ditched my previous dinner plans and came up with this really light chicken piccata instead. Served with some baby portabella mushrooms sauteed with garlic and some sugar snap peas steamed with extra virgin olive oil, this made for a great and healthy meal.

What we Loved: The sauce for this chicken had an incredible flavor. It had a sour, tangy punch from the lemon juice and the capers, and it had a savory, rich flavor from the white wine and just a dab of butter. Sauteeing the chicken breasts really simply in olive oil and coating them in the sauce made for a really moist chicken breast. Another great thing about this meal is that it is incredibly simple and only takes a few minutes from start to finish.

Helpful Hints: Chicken piccata is one of those dishes that can either be really, really unhealthy for you or really healthy for you, depending on how you make it. Nearly every chicken piccata recipe that I’ve run across calls for a lot of butter – anywhere from 3 tablespoons to nearly a stick. As in many, many other recipes that call for butter, I’ve found that it can almost always be eliminated or greatly reduced to make a healthier meal. You sacrifice that rich, buttery flavor, sure, but I really don’t think it’s even necessary in most cases. In my cooking, I’d say that I use butter maybe one time every couple of months (if that), and I never miss it. The absence of butter really allows you to taste so many other great flavorings – herbs, oils, garlic, seasonings, etc. – and after cooking this way for a long time, I really prefer these flavors to that of butter. That being said, chicken piccata is one  of those things that I’ve made several times, and I find that it does need just a little butter to round out the sauce. After making an already flavorful sauce using the pan scrapings from having cooked the chicken, lemon juice, white wine, and capers, I swirled in just a tablespoon of butter, and it was the perfect amount.

Chicken Piccata
Source: Very loosely adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

I used Giada’s recipe as inspiration, but my meal ended up quite differently. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, butterflied and cut in half
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/8 cup whole wheat flour
Extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1/8 cup brined capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon butter

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour, and shake off the excess.

2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately five minutes per side.

3. Plate the chicken. In the pan, add the lemon juice, the wine, and the capers. Use a spatula to scrape the brown bits from the pan into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat, and swirl in 1 tablespoon of butter.

4. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

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Chicken Chilaquiles

Wow. This is the best main dish that I’ve made in weeks. B and I both LOVED it and devoured it. I’ve wanted to try chilaquiles for a long time, but I really didn’t think that they would be that different from enchiladas, because they’re basically like enchiladas but in lasagna form. A layer of tortilla, a layer of filling, a layer of tortilla, and so on…topped with a sauce and cheese. So I came into this meal thinking that it would be much like an enchilada, but I was definitely wrong. The tortillas end up with a surprising and amazing texture, almost like the texture of dumplings. And since there are several layers of tortillas, you get a lot of that dumpling-like texture in every bite. Amazing. And I want to note that the green sauce in this recipe is the best green sauce that I’ve ever made, and I’ve tried many different recipes for enchiladas verdes. This is going to become my stock green sauce recipe. I really can’t rave enough about this entire recipe…it was so delicious that I think I might even prefer chilaquiles to enchiladas now. We devoured the whole pan in two nights. Oops.

Chicken Chilaquiles
Source: Adapted from The Crepes of Wrath

2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
Butter or oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
3/4 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup half and half (or milk or cream)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 (11-ounce) can tomatillos, drained
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
9 (6-inch) flour tortillas

1. Heat a bit of oil or butter in a saute pan, and saute the onions until softened and slightly browned. Remove from the heat, and add the chicken, 1/4 cup of the pepper jack cheese, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well to combine.

2. Add the half and half, cilantro, tomatillos, and green chiles in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

3. Pour 1/3 cup of the tomatillo mixture into the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish. Arrange 3 tortillas in the dish, and top them with half of the chicken mixture. Add another layer of tortillas, followed by the other half of the chicken. Add the final layer of tortillas.

4. Pour the tomatillo mixture over the tortillas, and then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of pepper jack cheese, or more if you like. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Chicken stuffed with Pesto and Mushrooms

I love browning chicken breasts in a saute pan before letting them finish cooking in the oven. It always gives the chicken much more flavor and color than just baking it, and it’s super easy and painless, as long as you don’t try to grab the handle of your fresh-from-the-oven saute pan with a bare hand when you’re getting ready to plate your chicken. Seriously, don’t do that. I’m just glad that the chicken didn’t end up on the floor and that my hand has finally stopped throbbing. Anyway, this chicken was a nice and healthy weeknight meal, and B and I both really liked the flavor of the filling. It’s a simple mixture of onions, mushrooms, and pesto, and like nearly everything else that I’ve tried to combine with chicken breasts, it worked really well. While I was eating this, I thought that the flavors would also go great on a pizza….pesto sauce, diced chicken, sauteed mushrooms. I’m definitely going to make that pizza soon.

Chicken stuffed with Pesto and Mushrooms
Source: Original Recipe

2 chicken breasts, butterflied
1/2 small onion, diced
Approximately 4 mushrooms, diced (I used button mushrooms, but I think baby portabellas would work much better, since they have so much more flavor)
2 tablespoons pesto
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Add a drizzle of olive oil to a saute pan, and heat the pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, then add the mushrooms and saute until they are cooked through and browned.

3. Pour the mushroom mixture into a small bowl. Add the pesto and stir to combine.

4. Scoop half of the mushroom mixture onto one side of each of the butterflied chicken breasts. Fold the other side of the chicken breasts back over the mixture, and then season the chicken with salt and pepper.

5. In the same pan that you used to saute the mushrooms, add another drizzle of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts to the pan, and saute until browned, about 2-3 minutes on each side.

6. Place the saute pan in the oven and cook until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside, approximately 25 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, flip the chicken to ensure even browning on both sides.

Mushroom and Parmesan Stuffed Chicken

Mushroom and Parmesan Stuffed Chicken

I always feel like stuffed chicken breasts are such a great meal, because there are so many different options. For fillings in the past I’ve used spinach and goat cheese, bacon and feta cheese, sundried tomatoes and basil, poblanos and cheddar…and there are a million other different combinations that I’d love to try. This mushroom filling turned out to be really rich and garlicy, and the parmesan cheese complimented the rest of the meal really well. Before baking, I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and drizzled it with olive oil, and I really loved how the oil seeped into and around the chicken, adding another layer of flavor.  Very hearty and satisfying.

Mushroom and Parmesan Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Source: Original Recipe

2 chicken breasts
4-5 large button mushrooms (baby bellas would also work great), chopped into small pieces
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely shredded
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

1. Place the chicken breasts between plastic wrap and flatten until 1/4 inch thick. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in a pan, and when hot add the onions and mushrooms. Cook until the liquid released from the mushrooms evaporates and the vegetables begin to brown, approximately ten minutes. Add the garlic and the parsley to the pan and cook for one additional minute.

3. Top the chicken breasts with the mushroom mixture, and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Roll the ends of the chicken breast around the filling and secure with toothpicks.

4. Drizzle the chicken breasts with extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the toothpicks, sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese, and serve.