When I was a child, my grandmother's landlord was French and, to top it off, a chef. On Sundays, his day off, Chef LaGrange always made coq au vin. This was before Julia Child taught us authentic French cooking, and the aroma drifting upstairs was like nothing I had ever known. The fragrance of that dish was what started my life-long passion for enticing chicken dishes.
During college, while living near New York City's Hungarian neighborhood, a clerk at a store that could have been in Budapest gave me her recipes for creamy chicken paprikash and a pungent goulash. Then my mother shared a recipe she found for Chicken Marengo. Made with garlic, tomatoes and white wine, in the late 1960s, it seriously impressed the men I dated.
Next came the era of the wok, when everyone learned to stir-fry. My specialty was tossing together colorful combinations of chicken, crisp vegetables, and fresh pineapple that I seasoned with ginger, garlic and soy sauce.
Northern Italian food then became the fashion, with restaurants featuring chicken picatta. What could be easier to make; just saute chicken cutlets, deglaze with chicken broth and lemon juice, and garnish with capers.
But my chicken overcooked in the thin parts while remaining pink where it was thick. Cookbooks explained that pounding the chicken to an even thickness would prevent this.
If, like me, you have resisted pounding chicken cutlets, trust me, it is worth the effort. Besides helping the chicken cook evenly, pounding tenderizes it. This helps cutlets come out as delicate in this Citrus Chicken, my version of picatta, as they are when served in the most exclusive restaurants. If you do not have a mallet or the round and short-handled metal implement called a meat pounder, using a small heavy frying pan works nicely.
Makes 4 servings.
- 1 lb. whole skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut in 4 (4 oz.) pieces
- 3/4 cup fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
- 3 Tbsp. lime juice
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. minced shallots
- 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp. cold water
- 1 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut in tiny pieces
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups baby arugula leaves
- 3 cups baby spinach
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- Place one piece of the chicken breast between 2 sheets plastic wrap or wax paper. Using a meat pounder, mallet, or small, heavy frying pan, pound the chicken until it is evenly 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
- In a measuring cup, combine the broth, lime juice, sugar, and shallots, and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook 3 minutes. Turn, and cook until chicken is white in the center, 2-3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.
- Pour the broth mixture into the pan, scraping with a wooden spatula to gather up any browned bits. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water and add to the pan. When the sauce boils and turns clear, 1-2 minutes, remove pan from the heat and whisk in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl, toss together the arugula and spinach leaves. Divide them among four dinner plates. Slice each chicken breast across the grain and at an angle. Arrange one sliced breast on top of the greens on each plate. Spoon over the sauce. Serve immediately, accompanied by cooked brown rice, if desired.
Nutritional Info Per Serving:
7 g. total fat (3 g. saturated fat),
5 g. carbohydrate,
28 g. protein,
less than 1 g. dietary fiber,
194 mg. sodium