Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chicken Piccata and Butternut Squash Soup

It's been four years and a kid since I've done any food blogging. It seems like a good time for a new blog.

For dinner tonight, we had chicken piccata and some butternut squash soup that I stashed in the fridge a few days ago while I was on a cooking spree.

I first made the chicken piccata recipe several years ago, and I remembered loving it. I made the butternut squash about two years ago but didn't have a good blender and used too much onion and ruined it. Tonight's dinner was practically perfect, though. The dredging in flour helps the chicken to brown beautifully and a good blender made the squash soup an actual soup instead of a chunky mess. The chicken needed a little tweaking, as the recommended cooking method didn't cook it through at the thickest parts. I'm going to try using smaller chicken breasts next time. If they still don't cook through, I may try reverse-searing them, as pan-frying them and then baking them off in the oven resulted in a bit of a stringy texture on the outside edge. I'll probably strain the soup next time, as I'd prefer having it even smoother.

Chicken Piccata 
adapted from The New Best Recipe, by Cook's Illustrated Magazine

1/4 C flour
6 chicken breasts, not too large, with fat and tenderloins removed
additional 1/2 tsp coarsely ground pepper
4 TB vegetable oil
2 lemons
1 tsp minced garlic
1 C chicken broth
2 TB capers, rinsed
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
3 TB unsalted butter

1-Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

2-Place flour in pie dish.

2-Slice one lemon lengthwise. Set aside one half for juicing. Trim the ends off the other half, then slice it into 1/8 to 1/4" slices. 

3-Juice the lemon and the lemon half. 

4-Pat dry the chicken breasts, then generously sat and pepper both sides.

5-Heat 2 TB of oil in a good 12-inch skillet on medium-high heat until shimmering.

6-Dredge 3 chicken breasts in flour, then place in skillet. Cook 2-2.5 minutes per side, until thoroughly browned.

7-Test the thickest part of chicken. If chicken is not cooked through, place on a baking sheet and put in the oven until cooked through. Cook remaining 3 breasts the same way.

8-On medium heat, cook the garlic in the skillet until fragrant. Add the chicken broth and lemon slices and cook on high heat until reduced to about 1/3 C. 

9-Add the lemon juice, capers, and pepper and cook until reduced to about 1/3 C again. Remove from heat and stir in butter and parsley. Spoon over chicken and serve.

Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from the Bride and Groom: First and Forever Cookbook by Mary Corpening Barber, et al.

3 C butternut squash, roasted with olive oil until soft, then cooled
1 TB olive oil
1 TB unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
freshly ground pepper
3 TB calvados
3.5 C chicken broth
3/4 C evaporated milk
freshly grated nutmeg
sour cream for serving

1-Put olive oil and butter in skillet and heat on medium until butter is melted. 

2-Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently. Do not let onion color. 

3-Add salt, pepper, and Calvados, and cook until the Calvados evaporates. Remove from heat.

4-Put half the squash, onion, broth, and evaporated milk a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a medium, heavy pot. Blend the other half of the squash, onion, broth, and evaporated milk and add to the pot. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste and bring to a simmer. Serve soup with sour cream.