Monday, September 12, 2016
A Kitchen Keeper Original - Chicken Cutlets with Onions, Capers and Cream
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I make this dish 10 to 12 times a year, alternating the use of capers with chopped Sicilian olives, depending on the preference of those who will be sitting at the table. Either way, it is a simple dish to prepare and the frequency with which it appears on my table is a clear indication that it's a family favorite. The chicken takes about 30 minutes to cook, but because I've added a brining step, it will take an additional hour of wait time before cooking can actually begin. If you are not held hostage by the clock, the chicken makes a perfect weeknight meal that is fancy enough to serve to guests, as well as to your family, who will sing praises to your name. If you consider brining to be wretched excess, you can, of course, bypass the step, but the downside of that is you'll never know how good this dish can be when the chicken is allowed to absorb the flavors of the brine. Osmosis allows the brining liquid to penetrate the tissue of the cutlets, improving their flavor and texture as the proteins in the muscle structure are broken down by the inward flow of salt water to the tissue. I also use a jaccard to tenderize the breasts prior to dunking them in brine. I can hear some of you thinking, "She thinks I'm made of time," but truth is small steps can make a huge difference in the quality of the dishes we serve to our family and friends. Years ago, I was a fan of Caprial Pence who used the jaccard on chicken she served in her restaurant. If it was good enough for her, it's good enough for me, and I've used the technique for over a decade now and no one complains about tough chicken.
You'll notice that I've used instant flour as a possible ingredient in the recipe below. This is another restaurant technique that I use in my own kitchen. The flour can be found in a canister in any large super market and it has become my favorite coating for meat and poultry that needs to be dredged before it is sauteed or fried. Instant flour - the best known brand is Wondra - has the consistency of baby powder, but, like cornstarch, it produces meat and poultry with a lighter and crispier coating than that produced by all-purpose flour. The coating helps prevent toughening of the surfaces exposed to direct heat. Lest you think the use of instant flour is something I've conjured from the miasma, you'll feel better knowing that Jacques Pepin, David Bouley, Eric Ripert and Mario Batalti are also fans of he product.
I'd also like to talk about the use of dry vermouth in this and other of my recipes. Overtime, this has become a convenience for me. The Silver Fox and I are not big drinkers. We are not prudes, but we've both reached a point in life where calories count, and we've made a conscious decision to chew rather than sip our calories. That means I rarely have a bottle of white wine in the refrigerator, and vermouth, which has a shelf life of 3 to 6 months, is a simple and obvious substitution for it. Vermouth is a fortified white wine that is mildly flavored with herbs, spices, and fruits. It is a lot less expensive than the dry white wines that are suitable for drinking, and while its flavor is a little different from a straight white table wine, it works wonderfully well when cooking savory dishes. I recommend you find a brand you like and stick with it when you cook. Flavor is not consistent from one brand to another and the balance of herbs and spices can throw off a recipe, so stay with what you know. Cook's Illustrated has recommended the use of Gallo Dry Vermouth. It is not too highly spiced, so its components won't go to war with the ingredients in your dish. It is also cheap! I do hope you'll give this recipe a try. Here is how the cutlets are made.
Chicken Cutlets with Onions, Capers and Cream...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup golden brown sugar
1-1/4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
4 cups water
4 (6-oz.) chicken cutlets or thin chicken breasts
1/4 cup instant or all-purpose flour for dredging
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, divided use
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
3/4 cup undiluted condensed chicken broth, divided use
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed (2 tablespoons of chopped Sicilian olives may be substituted)
2 tablespoon heavy cream or half-and-half
Garnish: chopped parsley or strips of lemon zest
1) To make brine: Combine salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add 1 cup hot water and stir until sugar dissolves. Add 3 cups cold water, poultry seasoning and pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour into a resealable zip top bag. Add chicken cutlets and marinate for 1 hour before proceeding with recipe.
2) To prepare chicken cutlets: Remove chicken from bag and pat dry. Dredge cutlets lightly in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet. Add cutlets and cook over high heat, turning once until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer browned cutlets to a plate.
3) To cook onions: Add reserved 1 tablespoon butter and onions to pan. Cook until onions are just tender and lightly brown. Add vermouth and 1/2 cup condensed chicken broth. Boil until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 minutes. Stir in capers.
4) To complete chicken: Return cutlets to skillet, placing them on top of onions. Reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer for about 5 minutes, turning cutlets once. Transfer to a serving plate and tent with foil while making sauce.
5) To make sauce: Turn heat up to high. Add reserved 1/4 cup condensed chicken broth to skillet and bring to a boil. Add cream and boil until liquid is of sauce consistency. Adjust seasoning if required. Spoon sauce over chops. Sprinkle with parsley or lemon zest strips. Yield: 4 servings
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