Chicken Piccata

Several weeks ago, I made chicken piccata for the first time. I’ve had it a handful of times over the years (though the last time was probably at least 5 years ago), but for some reason it had never occurred to me to make it myself. One day, it dawned on me that chicken piccata combines two of my very favorite elements in any dish – salt (capers) and acid (lemon juice), and that realization put it at the top of my “to make” list!

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata
serves 4

1.5lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1.5 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 large eggs
1.5 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3 T salted butter, divided
1 T olive oil
2 lemons
3 T capers, drained
3/4 cup dry white wine
one handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1.) To start, you want to butterfly your chicken breasts into thinner pieces. This will be much easier if your knife is really sharp, so you might want to sharpen it before you start. I butterflied mine into 3 fillets each, and they each ended up being about 1/4″ thick; this gave me about 9 chicken breast fillets. Alternatively, you could pound the chicken breasts out to an even thinness (cover the chicken with saran wrap before you start pounding it, so you don’t end up with tiny raw chicken bits flying all over your kitchen).

2.) Set up your breading station. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper; in the second bowl, whisk the eggs until the whites and yolks are completely blended; in the third bowl, place the seasoned bread crumbs.

3.) Preheat your oven to 250°, and place a rimmed baking sheet with a cooling rack on it in the oven. Place a large skillet over medium heat, and melt one tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. Allow the butter and oil to heat as you bread your first few pieces of chicken. Dredge each piece of chicken in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs – making sure to coat the chicken in each thoroughly, and shake off any excess before moving to the next step.

4.) Gently place as many pieces of chicken into the pan as can comfortably fit, being sure not to crowd them together. The butter and oil should sizzle and bubble up around the chicken as you place it into the pan.

5.) Fry the chicken for about 2 minutes on the first side, until it’s nicely golden brown. Flip, and fry for another 2 minutes on the second side. Keep a close eye on it – since the chicken is thin, it will cook quickly!

6.) When the first batch is cooked, remove it to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil. Then, move the cooked chicken to the baking sheet in the oven, to keep it warm. If needed, add more butter and oil to the pan before adding the second batch of chicken. Keep pan frying in batches (moving the cooked chicken to the warm oven) until all the chicken is done.

7.) When you’re done cooking the chicken, carefully wipe out the pan you used to fry with a paper towel. (Pro tip: if you do not do this carefully, you will drop a clump of HOT oil and bread crumbs on to your hand, and it will burn like hell, and leave a mark. I’m just saying.)

8.) Keep the pan over medium-low heat, and add the wine and capers. When the wine starts to bubble, add the juice of one and a half lemons (reserving the second half of the second lemon to cut into wedges for serving). Additionally, add 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce, and stir it in until it’s completely melted. Allow the sauce to simmer for just a minute or two, and then remove it from the heat.

9.) Place a couple pieces of chicken on your plate, and spoon the wine sauce and capers over the top. Finish with a sprinkle of parsley, and serve with a wedge of lemon on the side.

Chicken Piccata

My husband and I really, really loved this chicken. Before I made it, he was nervous about the capers, thinking he didn’t like them… but then he tried it and realized that capers are just tiny, delightful bites of salty goodness!

The crispy, golden breading is deliciously buttery and wonderful – but the bright acidity of the lemon and the salty bite of the capers cut through the richness of the butter, and the parsley lends a bit of freshness. Overall, this is a simple and tasty way to dress up some boring old chicken!

Don’t fear the capers,

Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I think my very favorite meal to ever come out of my mother’s kitchen is her green chicken enchiladas. Even as an exceptionally picky child (have we discussed how picky I was as a kid? I basically ate nothing, ever), I loved those enchiladas. They were cheesy and creamy and a bit spicy (or a lot spicy, depending on the particular batch of salsa verde from the Mexican grocery store… every once in a while we got a good, if unexpected, sinus clearing). I’m not sure what kind of voodoo magic my mom uses in her enchiladas, but I’ve never been able to replicate them exactly; so, rather than driving myself up a wall trying to make them exactly right, I finally just decided to put my own little twist on the recipe.

Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole

My version is slightly different, but delicious in its own way; most obviously, it’s more of a casserole than actual enchiladas. Many, many attempts at rolling enchiladas and having the damn tortillas crumble in my hands (YES, I’ve asked my mom how she does it, and NO, I still can’t make it work), and I’ve finally given up. Casserole it is!

(My apologies for the sub-par photos… this is just not the most attractive dish on earth. However, I promise that it IS delicious, looks aside!)

Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole
serves 6-8

1 lb chicken, cooked and shredded*
1 large sweet onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
two 16oz jars of salsa verde**
8oz monterey jack, shredded
8oz sour cream (reduced fat is fine)
12 small corn tortillas
salt and pepper

*If you use Pinterest, you’ve likely seen a million pins talking about how you should shred your chicken in your stand mixer. Quite frankly, this grossed me right out when I first read it – but, lucky for me, a friend of mine tried it and said it worked really well, so I got up the nerve to try it… and it. is. AWESOME. It cuts the tedious chore of shredding a pound of chicken from 20 minutes (and sore hands afterward) to about 30 seconds. I bake my chicken (in this instance, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder; baked, covered, for about 30 minutes at 350°), let it cool for about 5 minutes, and then pop it into the bowl of the mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on to low, and 30 seconds later, you have perfectly shredded chicken.

Shredded Chicken

**I prefer the Herdez brand, and it can usually be found in the Hispanic foods section of your grocery store. If you can’t find Herdez, use any other brand you enjoy!

1.) Heat a pot over medium heat, and add a teaspoon or two of olive oil to to it. Once it’s hot, add the onions, and cook until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about one minute; season with a pinch each of salt and pepper.

2.) Add the shredded chicken, and one jar of the salsa verde, and reduce the heat to low. Keep the mixture over low heat to keep it warm.

3.) Heat a small skillet over low heat, and add some of the second jar of salsa verde to it, so it’s about 1/2″ deep. While that sauce heats through, preheat your oven to 375°, and grab a casserole dish (I used a 9×9 dish).

4.) Spoon a small amount of the green sauce/chicken mixture into the bottom of the dish, and spread it evenly around. Then, take a corn tortilla, and put it into the small skillet filled with sauce; let it sit in the sauce until it’s evenly coated and slightly softened, just about 10-15 seconds. Remove it from the sauce, and lay it in the dish, using as many tortillas as you need to create a layer (I used three per layer, ripping one in half to sit the dish better). You’ll repeat this with all the corn tortillas, layering them into the dish as you go, and adding more sauce to the skillet as needed.

5.) Spoon 1/4 of the chicken mixture on top of the tortilla layer, and spread it out evenly. Spread 1/4 of the sour cream on top of that, doing your best to spread it out; top with 1/4 of the cheese. Continue layering until you use all your ingredients, ending with the cheese. I like to lightly mist the cheese with olive oil, to help it brown in the oven.

6.) Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned; turn the broiler on for the last minute or two, if needed, to brown the cheese.

7.) Allow the casserole to sit for at least 5 minutes, so it will set up a bit. Then, cut into squares, and serve!

Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole

You can serve this with a side of refried beans, or some rice, or chips and guacamole… or whatever you like! I served ours with a side of chili lime-seasoned cauliflower (recipe forthcoming), because I really wanted to have a slightly lighter side dish; of course, Crist wasted no time in telling me (repeatedly) that serving cauliflower with Mexican food was “gross”, but I paid her no attention, because we thought it was delicious.

Crist comes to visit in 3 days!

Buttermilk Pancakes

Happy 2013!

I hope you all had a restful and enjoyable holiday season. I definitely enjoyed some time off from work, being with family and friends, and just relaxing! It’ll be a little tough to readjust to having to go to work (I am not even sure I remember what my alarm sounds like, quite frankly), but it’ll be nice to get back into a routine. And, getting back into a steady routine means spending more time in the kitchen, trying and writing new recipes… I’m excited to get started!

If, like me, you work somewhere that doesn’t close on bank holidays, the start of a new year brings a 5-month drought of paid days off. As the year stretches out in front of me, and the Memorial Day long weekend feels a million miles away, weekends become more treasured than ever – I try to do whatever I can to make them feel like mini vacations. Often, that means I cook a more-complicated-than-usual breakfast (meaning, something that takes more effort than scrambling a couple eggs, or pouring some cereal into a bowl). My recent favorite is buttermilk pancakes. I typically have all the ingredients on hand, they’re quick to make, and they’re REALLY good… I see a lot of buttermilk pancakes in my Sunday morning future!

Buttermilk Pancakes

Buttermilk Pancakes
original recipe here
serves 2-4

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
Salted butter, for greasing the griddle

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, egg, and buttermilk until just combined. The batter will be a bit lumpy.

2. Allow the batter to sit while you heat your griddle. Heat your griddle (or non-stick pan, or well-seasoned cast iron pan) over medium low heat, making sure you allow it enough time to get good and hot.

3. Lightly grease your pan with salted butter. Use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop batter on to the griddle, lightly spreading the batter into about a 4″ circle (my griddle holds two pancakes at a time; you can do as many at once as your griddle or pan will hold, without them running into each other).

4. The pancakes are ready to flip after about 90 seconds, when small bubbles have formed on the surface, and the edges are starting to look slightly firm and set. Use a thin, flexible spatula to flip them; if the pancakes don’t seem to be holding together when you try to flip them, give them another 30 seconds and then try again. Once they’re flipped, they need another minute or so on the second side.

Buttermilk Pancakes

5. Continue until all the batter has been used. You can keep the finished pancakes warm in a 250 degree oven, or just on a plate covered with a clean dish towel (this way they stay warm, but don’t get soggy).

This recipe makes about 8 four-inch pancakes. They turn out very thick and hearty, and are quite filling; I can usually only eat 2, and my husband can typically eat 3. So, depending one everyone’s appetites, one batch will feed 2-4 people nicely.

Buttermilk Pancakes with Raspberry Syrup

You can top these however you’d like! I prefer just a bit of butter, my husband likes syrup, and occasionally I’ll do something crazy like make my own fruit syrup (to make the raspberry syrup pictured, simply combine 2/3 cup sugar, 2/3 cup water, and 6 oz. raspberries in a small saucepan and boil until sufficiently thickened). They’re not overly sweet, exceptionally light and fluffy, and a great way to start off a lazy weekend morning! Pair them with a few slices of bacon for maximum enjoyment.

Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

This past weekend, I had myself a bit of a cooking marathon on Saturday. We weren’t home much last week, which resulted in a lot of no-cook, thrown together dinners, and I felt the need to do some serious cooking, to make up for it. One of the things I made was this pulled pork (except I used a 2 pound pork tenderloin). We each had a serving of it over the course of the weekend, but 2 pounds of pulled pork is kind of a lot for two people – so I wanted to come up with a way to use some of the pork in a totally different way, so we wouldn’t get sick of it. I’ve been thinking for MONTHS that I wanted to make some kind of macaroni and cheese that had meat in it, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity!

Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese
Serves 6

1 pound penne pasta
4 T salted butter
4 T all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, grated
4 cups milk (2% or whole)
6 ounces smoked cheddar, grated
6 ounces monterey jack, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups pulled pork or other leftover meat
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
olive oil

1.) Cook pasta until just shy of al dente. Preheat oven to 350°.

2.) Heat butter in a large pot over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the grated garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3.) Add the flour, whisking it with the butter to form a roux (it should have a paste-like texture). Keep whisking and cooking for a couple minutes, to cook out the raw flour taste, until the roux turns light brown.

4.) Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly, until the roux is fully incorporated with the milk, and there are no lumps. Continue to stir frequently until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 10 minutes (do not let the mixture boil!).

5.) Once the milk mixture has thickened, reduce the heat to low, then stir in the salt and pepper, and the two cheeses. Slowly stir until all the cheese has melted, and you have a smooth sauce. Turn off the heat.

6.) Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce. Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray (I used a 9×9 pan), and pour half the macaroni and cheese mixture into the bottom of the pan. Top with the pulled pork, spreading it out as best you can, and then top that with the rest of the macaroni. Spread the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the macaroni, and lightly mist with oil (you can also dot a tablespoon or so of butter around the top of the breadcrumbs – this just helps the breadcrumbs brown).

7.) Bake for 30 minutes, until the breadcrumbs have turned golden brown, and the cheese is bubbling.

Well, I must say, this was an excellent way to use up some leftover pulled pork! The sweetness of the sauce on the pork paired so well with the smokiness of the smoked cheddar – and who can refuse the crunchy breadcrumb topping on a pan of mac and cheese?! No one, that’s who.

Why NOT put the main dish inside the side dish?