Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentines Day 2009

One of the things I have done most years since Lara and I were married 18 years ago was to make a Valentines day dinner.  I try to make something a little fancy and something Lara will like.  Especially this year with Valentines day on a Saturday I am sure going to a restaurant would be crazy.  

This year I picked something fairly simple to make, I think it still looks elegant though.  For the main dish I made a Chicken Piccata.  It was very easy, and since you pound the chicken into thin cutlets, it cooks very quickly.  The Chicken was good and lemony - it went well with the buttered angel hair pasta (one of Lara's favorites) that I served with it.

I also have been wanting to try my recipe for no-knead bread that was in a cookbook I got for Christmas.  The bread takes hardly any work at all.  You mix the ingredients together the night before - they just get stirred together with a spoon.  You then let it rise overnight on the counter. 
 The next day you knead the dough just 10-15 times (this is the secret step in their "no knead" dough) and let it rise as a ball for another couple hours.  You then cook it in a very hot pre-heated dutch oven and turn the oven down for cooking.  The ingredients were a little different than most bread.  I did not use bread flour, it called for very little yeast, and used a lot of liquid.  I think it came out looking beautiful and tasted even better.  It looked like an "artisan" loaf that you would get at a nice bakery.  My only issue was that it did come out a little dark on the bottom.  I might try lowering the starting temp a little next time.

To end the meal we needed an elegant desert.  Well - I am just going to tease you with that right now since desert was my Barefoot Bloggers recipe for the second half of January.  It was very good and very appropriate for Valentines so check back on January 22 to see how that turned out.

Chicken Piccata
(Source: Cuisine at Home sample issue)
Serves 2

  • 2 Boneless, skinless breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • Nonstick spray
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. capers, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Fresh lemon slices
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  1. Cut chicken breast lengthwise to form two cutlets each.
  2. Pound the chicken breasts into even 1/4 inch thick cutlets
  3. Season cutlets with salt and pepper, then dust with flour.
  4. Coat saute pan with non-stick spray, add oil, and heat over medium-high.
  5. Saute cutlets 2-3 mins on one side then flip and saute 1-2 minutes with the pan covered.  Transfer cutlets to a warmed platter; pour off fat from pan.
  6. De-glaze pan with wine and add garlic.  Cook until garlic is slightly browned and liquid is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add broth, lemon juice, and capers.  Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side 1 minute.  Transfer cutlets to plate.
  8. Finish sauce with butter and lemons.  When butter melts, pour sauce over cutlets.
  9. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Almost No-knead Bread
(Source: Cooks Illustrated, Jan 2008)
Makes 1 Large round loaf

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons mild-flavored lager
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl.  Add water, beer, and vinegar.  Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.
  2. Lay 12 by 18 inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10 inch skillet and spray with non-stick cook spray.  Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead 10 to 15 times.  Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle.Transfer dough seam-side down to parchment lined skillet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled in size (about 2 hours).
  3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest setting, place 6-8 quart heavy bottomed dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.  Note:  Most dutch ovens come with handles that should not be used in 500 degree oven.  You can get metal handle from Le Creuset or I just used a metal cabinet door handle from Home Depot.
  4. Lightly flour top of dough and, using a razor blade or sharp knife, cut a 6 inch long 1/2 inch deep slit in top of the dough.  Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid.  Pick up dough using overhanging parchment and lower into the pot.  Cover pot and place into oven.  Reduce temperature to 425 and cook 30 minutes.  Remove lid and continue to bake until deep brown and instant read thermometer reads 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer.  Carefully remove bread from pot and cool on a wire rack for about 2 hours.


Anonymous said...

The chicken picata looks nice. I usually buy chicken whole and cut it up. I do end up with two big breast pieces. Do I simply pound each (keep them whole) and what do you use to pound them?

Todd M said...

No - you use half of the split breast and pound that. There are two pieces in a serving so they should be small.