Piccata is a term used to describe a method of cooking various cuts of meat or fish. Chicken and veal piccata are probably the most common dishes although fillets of fish are sometimes used, even calamari steaks. Basically cutlets of meat or poultry are pounded into a thin layer to tenderize them. They are then lightly breaded and sautéed before being covered in a sauce which most often includes butter, lemon juice and/or white wine, capers and spices. Once you grasp the method, you can take off with your own variations. The method is much like the Chicken Marsala but with different ingredients.
When I came across a recipe for Sole Piccata with Grapes and Capers in Bon Appétit, I knew I had to try it. It was one of those “Holy capers Batman, this dish goes super kapow!” recipes. The grapes added a bold dimension without overpowering the lemon and capers but stood next to them equal in flavor. This is a weeknight dish that you can have on the table in a reasonably short time and can be dressed up for company if you don’t mind cooking at the last minute.
I have found the seafood piccatas suitable for warmer weather and the chicken better suited for colder times. There’s something about the peppery breading of the chicken that is warming but is balanced with the slightly sweet fruitiness of the grapes, the brightness of the lemon and the briny taste of the capers. A nice comforting risotto rounds this out to a full plate of pleasurable eating.
Chicken Piccata with Grapes and Capers
Adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) olive oil
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or 4 chicken cutlets of your choice
- All-purpose flour
- 3/4 cups (180 ml.) seedless red grapes, halved
- 1/4 cup (60 ml.) white grape juice (I keep a container of frozen white grape juice concentrate in the freezer for this recipe.)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (23 ml.) capers, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon ( 15 ml.) fresh parsley, minced plus more in a rough chop for a garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml.) lemon juice
- Pound the chicken thighs to a thickness of about 1/4 inch (.65 cm.)
- Lightly salt and pepper the cutlets and dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess
- Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold them or sauté in batches
- Place in the heated skillet and sauté until lightly browned, turn and brown on the other side
- Remove the cutlets to a warm platter and keep warm in a slow oven about 170º F (75º C)
- Add the grapes, wine, grape juice, butter and stir, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom
- Add capers and minced parsley
- Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the additional parsley and a small cluster of fresh grapes.
Do try this recipe sometime using the original Dover sole or, if you can find them, calamari steaks. Many supermarkets will have them frozen.
Roasted Delicata Squash and Mushroom Risotto
Preparing risotto in the traditional way is laborious but is also great exercise for your stirring arm. Sautéed Arborio rice is slowly cooked in a simmering stock added in small amounts (Usually 1/2 cup (120 ml.) increments, allowing the rice to incorporate the liquid before adding more hot stock. This is continued until the rice releases enough starch to create a creamy consistency and reaches the proper al dente texture. This is up to the judgment of the risotto expert, ie. you. At this point all additional ingredients are added.
- 2-3 pounds (1-1.5 kg.) delicata or butternut squash, peeled and cubed for roasting, seeds and pith reserved for steeping in the broth. (There’s more than one way to roast a squash, so feel free to use your favorite method but do try the seeds and pith steeped in the broth.)
- 6 cups (1.5 lt.) non-fat, low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) unsalted butter
- 1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
- 1/2 cup (120 ml.) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup ( 240 ml.) rough chopped mushrooms, wild or domestic
For the roasted squash:
- Preheat the oven to 450º F (230º C)
- Arrange the cubed squash on a greased baking sheet, season with a little salt and toss with a little olive oil
- Roast in the middle of the oven until tender and beginning to brown, about 40-50 minutes
- Set aside
For the risotto:
- Sauté the mushrooms in a little olive oil until just beginning to brown.
- Gather the squash seeds and pith in some cheese cloth, tie and add to the stock.
- Bring broth and seeds to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer, covered.
- Meanwhile, cook shallots in butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add rice and garlic, cook, stirring about 3 minutes.
- Stir in 1/2 cup simmering broth and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed.
- Continue simmering and adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy-looking but still al dente (There will be leftover broth.)
- Stir in squash pieces, mushrooms, then stir in cheese, simmer, stirring, 1 minute. (If necessary, thin risotto with some leftover broth.)
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Serve with the Chicken Piccata.
Enjoy this with a nice pinot noir or a chardonnay.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities