Quick and Fancy: Chicken Piccata with Asparagus Gremolata

This summer in California, Michael (my brother), begged me to make chicken piccata.  I don’t know why, but I kept procrastinating.  Maybe it’s because I don’t particularly crave tart things.  Or because I’m selfish – I make things when I want to make them.  That being said, I received a sarcastic comment from Michael anytime I put out a meal, because it still wasn’t chicken piccata.

Two weeks later, I finally got the recipe from the queen of Italian cooking, Giada De Laurentiis.  Boy is she pretty.  Anyways, I made it for lunch that same day (I figured Michael had waited long enough).  He was pleased with the results.  I admit I was too.  Not only is this dish a little tart, but it’s rich and buttery as well.  You’ll want to sop up every bit of sauce.  Each ingredient – the fresh parsley, the tart capers, the sour lemon – holds its own, in a harmonic way.  I’m glad I diverged from my usual flavor escapades – savory/sweet – to attempt this classic Italian dish.  It was all my idea (cough cough).

All main dishes should have a complementing side dish.  I wanted something Italian, so I searched the Food Network and came upon an asparagus gremolata from Rachel Ray.  I, being ignorant, didn’t know what gremolata was, so I quickly looked it up.  Gremolata is essentially parsley, lemon zest and garlic chopped finely together with olive oil.  How convenient!  I could use the zest of the lemons and the leftover parsley from the piccata (I’m so economical).

The asparagus complemented the chicken beautifully.  I was afraid that using parsley, lemon and olive oil in both recipes would taste repetitive, but it did not.  The lemon zest in the gremolata gives off a completely different lemon note from the lemon juice in the chicken.  Similarly, the drizzle of olive oil is more pungent in the asparagus than in the chicken piccata sauce.  Garlic can go with anything, so that was not a problem.  However, I did not know that raw garlic was spicy.  I had never used a recipe that called for it raw, besides a pesto.  It was a kick of flavor, though, and I will try it more often in the future.

Chicken Piccata (Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half  (I just pounded them to a little less than an inch instead of butterflying)
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (zest them first if making asparagus)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (less sodium)
  • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Mix about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper with about a cup flour on a large plate.  Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour on both sides, and shake off the excess.
  2. Over medium-high heat in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil.
  3. When the butter and oil start to bubble, add 2 pieces of the chicken, and brown each side for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove onto a plate.
  4. Melt 2 more table spoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter.
  5. When it bubbles, add the rest of the chicken, and repeat the browning process.
  6. Once the chicken is removed to the same plate, add the lemon juice, capers, and chicken stock into the pan and bring to a boil, while scraping up the brown bits for extra flavor.
  7. Return all of the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the chicken to a platter, and whisk in the last tablespoon of butter, until the sauce thickens.
  8. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with parsley.

 

 

Asparagus Gremolata (thanks Rachel Ray)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds thin asparagus
  • salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 8 to 10 anchovies ( I used 1/2 cup pitted green olives instead, which was great)
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley (I used Italian)

Directions

  1. In either a shallow pan or tall saucepan, steam the asparagus in salted water for 5 minutes, or until tender
  2. While the asparagus cooks, combine the parsley, lemon zest, garlic, and anchovies/olives to finely chop them together, forming the gremolata.
  3. Remove the asparagus onto a platter, and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Generously sprinkle the gremolata on the asparagus, and serve hot or at room temperature.
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