Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Enough for Company

Here are two dishes worthy of company.  Weeknight meals around here are usually pretty basic (remember the concept of slopping the hogs as I've mentioned before) but I stepped it up this week.  (Uh-oh, Henry, look out - what do I want this time?  Another trip to Cambodia?  A trip to Costa Rica with my friend Cynthia so we can get face lifts?)  Haha, I wouldn't turn down either one!


Henry says he would eat cardboard if it had capers on it.  No wonder he likes this!

4 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (more about this later)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 cup dry white wine (I used Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc or "swill" as we call it around here)
2 cups chicken stock (yup, I used the stuff in a box - at least it was organic, free-range)
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Place one chicken breast on a sheet of waxed paper.  Cover with another sheet of waxed paper.  Use a mallet or rolling pin to pound it out, so you have a 1/4-inch cutlet.  Set aside on a baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining breasts then season well with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet over high heat.  When pan is hot, add 2 of the cutlets and cook until browned and golden on one side, about 5 minutes.  It is ready to turn when it no longer sticks to the bottom of the pan.  Turn and brown the other side, about 3 minutes more.  Set aside on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining olive oil and chicken breasts.  Do not wash out saute pan.

Cover chicken with foil and place in a 200-degree oven to keep warm. 

Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and wine to the skillet.  Stir to loosen all of the browned bits on the bottom and cook until mixture bubbles and starts to reduce.  Add chicken stock and continue to cook over high heat until mixture reduces by half, about 6 minutes or so.  Reduce heat to medium-low, add capers and butter and continue to cook until butter melts.  Taste to adjust seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

Transfer chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet.  To serve, place one chicken breast on serving plate and nap with sauce and capers.  Sprinkle with Italian parsley if using (I didn't because I didn't have any).

Serves 2 - 4, depending upon how hungry your hogs are.

The next recipe doesn't even pretend to be good for you, but oh, it's really good.  It would impress the hell out of your dinner guests should you decide you are willing to clean your house and actually invite some people over.  It does require the purchase of truffle butter (which isn't exactly cheap) but is a whole lot cheaper than fresh truffles and the cost evens out when you figure a little goes a long way and you're not serving meat to your guests anyhow.  (Hey, I can rationalize ANYTHING).

PASTA WITH TRUFFLE BUTTER  (from Ina Garten's "Back to Basics')

I am not a fan of truffle oil.  But truffle butter is another thing entirely.  Try it, you'll like it!

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 oz. white truffle butter (the container I purchased was 2 oz. and I used half.  It's potent!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 oz. fettucine or pasta of choice (I used farfalle because it's what I had on hand)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 oz. Parmigianno Reggiano, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  In a large saute pan, heat cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer.  Add the truffle butter, salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to low.  Add truffle butter and stir until it melts.  Keep warm over very low heat.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente (I really don't need to tell you how to cook pasta here, do I?)  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.  Add it to the cream mixture and toss to blend.  Add as much of the reserved pasta water as needed so pasta is creamy.  Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper or truffle butter as needed.

Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and garnish with the chives and shaved Reggiano.  Serve immediately.

Serves 2-3 or 4-5 as a side dish or appetizer

Okay, so here's the postcript about salt and pepper. 

As far as I'm concerned, both are crucial to most recipes (unless you are baking - then pepper, not so much).  I keep mine in small ceramic dishes, so I can sprinkle it on by "feel" as opposed from shaking it from a salt cellar or grinding it from a pepper mill.  I think you get a lot more control that way.  If you work in a restaurant, that's how it's done.

But of course, you want freshly ground pepper, so here's the solution.  Grind it up yourself in a coffee grinder, pour it into your ceramic dish and there you go.  Freshly ground black pepper at your fingertips!

Okay, I'm done now.  Here's to slopping the hogs ... or not.

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