Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce

Now that we have some chicken stock and some boneless, skinless breasts, with a few additions we can make a nice dinner .   You will need oil.  You can use olive oil to cook with but not extra virgin olive oil because it will become bitter when overheated.  Currently I use rice bran oil for cooking, it has a nutty flavor and very high smoke point. Canola is also a good choice and there are corn and other oils available, use what you like best.

You need capers, small green pickled berries which come in a small jar.  They are used in many Mediterranean dishes so they are good to have on hand. You will need a fresh lemon, something you should always have on hand. Don't bother with bottled lemon juice, I've tried it and nothing beats freshly squeezed lemon juice.  You'll also need flour.  You can buy a bag of all-purpose or a shaker of instant blending for now.

We'll be serving the chicken with mashed potatoes and frozen peas.  These will present the least challenge so you can concentrate on the sauce.  We'll also garnish with fresh chives.  The secret to success in the kitchen is being prepared. If you are also serving dessert it might be nice to put a few curls of lemon rind if it suits the dessert so take those off now and put them aside.  Cut the lemon in half and juice it.  A chef would squeeze the juice through the fingers of his other hand directly into the sauce, but he has a box of lemons and we have one.  So I use a juicer and tea strainer.

Chop the chives up, you only need a few pieces on each plate so you probably only need one or two. Peel the potatoes, rinse and cut into chunks.  It is important when cutting things up that each piece be about the same size and shape so it will cook uniformly.  Put the potatoes into a pot that will be about half full when the potatoes are covered with cold water.  Add salt and put on the burner but don't turn the burner on yet.

Open the oven and move the rack to the middle, close the door and set the temperature to 375F  185C.  When the indicator light goes out the oven is ready to use.  It is important to wait till the oven reaches temperature to get the correct browning when roasting and rising when baking.  Dice up a 1/4 inch slice of onion and everything is ready to cook.

Turn the potatoes on high. Season the chicken with  salt and paprika and/or pepper on both sides of the meat.  Use one hand to turn the meat and the other hand to touch the spice.  Any time you handle raw meat you should wash your hands and the work space with soap before touching anything else.  Otherwise bacteria from the meat will contaminate the kitchen and the food and you will get sick.

If you don't have a frying pan with an oven safe handle then lightly oil a baking sheet, place the chicken smooth/skin side up on sheet and spray or brush with oil so it will brown and not dry out. Put them in the oven.   If you have a frying pan with a metal handle then put a tablespoon of oil in the pan and turn the burner on to medium high. Watch the pan till it gets hot then put both breasts smooth/skin side down, they should sizzle frantically. Flip them over quickly then pop the pan in the oven. It will take about 25 minutes for the chicken to cook then you'll want it to rest for 5 or 10 minutes so you have 30 minutes to cook everything. If the potatoes are boiling turn them down to medium low so they are just lightly simmering.

Put a tablespoon of oil in your pan for the sauce and turn the burner to medium high.  Put the diced onion in the pan and cook them to golden brown then remove them from the pan to a side plate. Put a bit more oil in the pan and add a heaping teaspoon of flour to the oil and mix it in so you have a smooth  oily paste.  You need to cook the flour taste out of it so let the flour sizzle a little but don't brown it. It's time to start the peas and check the potatoes.

Take the sauce pot off the heat and pour 1/4 cup stock in whisking to smooth it.  Add more stock till you have a smooth thick liquid then add a teaspoon of lemon juice,  a pinch of salt and the golden onions.  Add 7 to 10 capers to the sauce and put it back on the heat. Now taste it, you should be able to taste the sweetness of the onions, chicken stock, lemon and salty capers.  If it is too sour and not salty then add salt to counter the acid and taste again.  If it is salty add lemon.  If you end up with it too salty and too sour then add stock. If all else fails you can add sugar to reduce the acidity but you are turning it into a sweet and sour sauce, which is fine.

If the potatoes are done, turn the burner off.  Drain , mash and put a tablespoon of butter in them. Check the peas. If done, turn the burner off and drain. Add a tablespoon of butter and some salt. Add 2 tablespoons of milk to the potatoes and some salt, taste them.  If they are too dry add more milk and if bland add salt.

If the breasts have been in for 25 minutes take them out and press one with a fork.  If the juices are a little bit pink, put them back in the oven for 5 more minutes.  The juices will run clear when they're done. If they're done turn the oven off, take them out and put them on a clean cutting board to rest while we plate.  Put two plates in the oven to warm for a minute, check peas and potatoes are ready to serve.

The point of resting the meat is to let it cool down so when cut the moisture won't escape as steam, drying out the meat.  If the meat has rested enough put 3 or 4 diagonal slices in each breast, not all the way through, you want the meat to hold together. If it hasn't rested enough then plate the breast whole.  Plate the potatoes and peas.  Spoon sauce over the breasts but not too much, you don't want everything swimming in it.  Sprinkle chives on the potatoes and serve your meal!

Throw away the extra sauce, you can easily make it fresh next time. This sauce is also good on fish.

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