Tag : lemon
Tag : lemon
I occasionally work at a cooking school. By “occasionally,” I mean I used to work in a cooking school, but with a recent promotion (heyyyyy) I work almost exclusively on the retail floor (as a manager) at a store that contains the cooking school.
But this is a story about the cooking school.
There are tons of different classes taught in this kitchen, but the most common themes are French and Italian. It was during my first year at this store that I encountered…nay, heard of chicken piccata for the first time. Less popular this year for some reason, chicken piccata used to be the recipe du jour of the Italian-themed summer classes. I was working in the kitchen during one such class and there was an excess of the entree after the students were done, so I was able to sample a little bit.
Just one bite and I was in love. (Sorry, cardamom, but I’m a capers dude now.)
Such a simple recipe, and yet so intriguingly delicious. No wonder it was all the rage. In fact, until I attempted chicken piccata months later, following Giada’s recipe first, I had never made anything like it. The only meat I had ever seared up until that point was steak, which I always, always followed with garlic, rosemary, butter, and red wine. Never before had I dredged a piece of protein, let alone braised it in its own fat.
My first time making chicken piccata, and admittedly my second, third, and fourth times, I was not quite satisfied, but I was obsessed with figuring out how to make what I had tasted in that cooking class kitchen over the summer. I bothered chefs for advice, read every recipe on the Internet, and watched videos until I fell asleep, and I just kept making chicken piccata.
My mom’s family is from the Midwest, and if we’re talking bloodlines and ethnicity, they’re Portuguese (kind of.) They’re seven-layer-salad Midwest, Swedish meatballs Midwest (hint: I’ve finally perfected my take on Magnus Nilsson’s Swedish meatballs and you can expect a post about that in the new year.) Despite the mix of Scandinavian and Portuguese-ish heritage, it came about that when my mom’s family visits, I make Italian food. Why? The first time they visited after I moved home, I desperately wanted to perfect and show off my focaccia recipe. Subsequent visits involved attempts at chicken piccata, homemade ravioli, and recently, even chicken cacciatore. Basically, timing. Also, they always visit in the summer, which means basil and tomatoes, and thus, all things caprese.
Also also, my aunt owns a farm and an organic bed and breakfast in Spain, where she not only raises her own animals and provides her own ingredients for her B&B kitchen, but she also picks and presses her own olives. About a year and a half ago, she came to us with easily a gallon of first-press Spanish olive oil from her farm, and I couldn’t miss an opportunity to make sourdough focaccia, caprese salads (with our own basil and farmer’s market tomatoes), handmade pasta, and my two new favorite chicken dishes with my aunt’s own olive oil.
Thus, in a family with only one Italian person through marriage on my dad’s side, I make Italian food for my mom’s relatives.
And if you ever visit, I’ll make some for you. But for now, here’s a simple, Italian-esque chicken recipe: chicken piccata.
If you peek around on the internet, you’ll find a few different definitions of piccata and even a few different rules about what a real chicken piccata contains, but generally, the word refers to a meat breaded and cooked in a butter sauce. With chicken, the common flavor is lemon, and the favored addition are capers. More commonly, you see veal piccata (and veal marsala, but that’s a post for another year.) With dishes made in the same way as chicken piccata, you don’t need to dredge the meat, but traditionally, piccata is made with breaded cutlets, and the flour from the meat helps indirectly thicken the sauce (like a dissembled roux.)
The most important things I’ve discovered over the past year and some months of making this recipe are:
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast and/or thigh
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3~4 Tbsp canola oil or light, refined olive oil
1/4 c all-purpose flour
extra-virgin olive oil or more light olive oil, as needed
1/3 c (~3 oz) lemon juice
1/4 c (2 oz) dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot, or even white cooking wine
1/2 c (4 oz) unsalted chicken stock
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp capers, drained (NOT rinsed)
Fresh parsley, chopped coarsely, to garnish
An hour or more before you’re ready to start, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Rest the chicken on a plate or cookie sheet between paper towels to dry.
If you’re using chicken breasts, I recommend butterflying them: lay the breast flat on a cutting board, and holding a long, sharp knife with the flat side parallel to the board, slice through the meat and open it flat like a book.
It’s also worth tenderizing the chicken breasts. Chicken thighs are already thin and tender, so you can skip ahead if you’re only using thighs. Wrap the chicken breasts, butterflied or not, in plastic or parchment paper, lay on a cutting board, and using a meat mallet, empty wine bottle, meat stamp, or rolling pin, roll or pound the chicken out until it becomes thinner and wider. Let the breasts rest on the paper towels to dry and warm up.
If you’re using chicken thighs, unravel them and lay them flat on the paper towels.
Heat a large skillet or sauté pan on medium-high. For 1 pound of meat, a skillet measuring 10 inches or wider is ideal, but you can cook the chicken in batches, so a smaller skillet or a larger recipe will work just as well.
In a shallow serving dish or plate, combine salt, pepper, and all-purpose flour and whisk with a fork.
Once the skillet has been heating for about 10-15 minutes, add a few tablespoons of canola or light olive oil and tilt the pan to coat the bottom. There are a few ways to determine when your oil is hot: if you tilt the pan and the oil runs like water (the viscosity is thin); if you tilt the pan so the oil pools on one side, and then stick the end of a wooden utensil in the pool and see bubbles like you’re deep-frying the utensil; or if the oil is starting to smoke. Additionally, you can flick a little bit of the all-purpose flour into the pan and see if it bubbles and fries.
Dredge each piece of chicken, covering it in a light coating of seasoned flour on every side, edge, and in the nooks and crannies, then gently lay the chicken in the smoking oil. If you don’t immediately hear a sizzle, turn up the heat a bit and wait a few minutes before proceeding. You can do the chicken in multiple batches: keep the raw chicken between the paper towels until you’re ready to dredge and fry it.
Sear each piece of chicken on both sides*, until nicely bronzed. Once seared on both sides, remove each piece of chicken and set aside on a clean plate or in a clean bowl. Repeat with all of the chicken.
*When searing, I use the mantra, “set it and forget it…for a few minutes.” Don’t mess with the protein! Set it gently into the hot oil, let it sizzle, and let it brown for a few minutes. The meat will stick to the pan at first, and then gradually release as it sears up. Additionally, “golden brown” is the common phrase, but darker than gold is ideal, hence “nicely bronzed.” A bronze/copper color is the way to go.
You can do both thighs and breasts simultaneously.
Once all the chicken is seared off, lower the heat on the pan to medium-low and add the extra virgin olive oil (or light olive oil.) Let the oil heat for a few minutes, then pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits along the bottom. Simmer and reduce the wine a little bit, cooking for about 10-15 minutes.
Whisk in the lemon juice and chicken stock, and let simmer and thicken for about 10 – 15 minutes. Taste and adjust by adding more salt, pepper, wine, lemon juice, or stock. The sauce should be tart and flavorful but not purely lemon-y.
Add the chicken back to the pan, then add the butter and capers. Cover and let the chicken simmer in the sauce for about 10 – 15 minutes, until cooked through and ready to serve. Taste occasionally for seasoning. The sauce should end up lemon-y and buttery but not painfully acidic.
Serve the chicken and sauce over pasta or on its own.
other fruit-y muffins
What if I told you it’s taken me almost a year to work up this recipe?
They say the best axiom in baking is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but I’ve always been a “so I’ll break it and then learn to fix it” kind of person. You all know this. I can’t claim a recipe without trying every possible flavor substitution or adjustment.
I had wanted a lemon poppyseed muffin recipe for the blog last summer, as part of my “oh my god lemons in everything” kick (which became my I’m Stuck in a Restaurant Trying to Escape gig and thus my I Have Nothing Useful to Blog About rut.)
I printed off a few different recipes and started working. I bought lemons (big tracts…I mean bags…of lemons), lemon extract, and lemon oil, and stocked up on milk, lemon juice (for those times when the lemons just ain’t givin’ you enough), buttermilk, greek yogurt, other yogurts, and sour cream. My goal was to take my two favorite recipes and then try every flavor combination I could think of: zest + juice + buttermilk, oil + buttermilk, zest + buttermilk + no juice, extract + buttermilk, and more.
It’s been so long since I’ve done math I can’t even begin to fathom how many combinations I would have had to try. Needless to say, none of them quite worked out. Muffins were too dry, or too small, or not lemon-y enough, and I gave up.
I should add here that it also only took me one attempt at a recipe this time around to find something that worked, and it was far simpler than having to use extracts or oils or other mumbo-jumbo kitchen magic. I took a recipe from my favorite book (linked below) and swapped out the flavors for lemon, and added poppyseed.
Made it once. Loved it.
Made it again, with some small adjustments for muffin size, and wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.
After all this, I’ve discovered that the keys to good lemon poppyseed muffins are freshly and liberally zested and juiced lemons (supplemented with store-bought lemon juice if needed), and plenty of poppyseeds. More zest means more flavor without compromising texture.
Another, more philosophical, lesson to take away is that sometimes you need to examine every single angle to make something your own. Sometimes a simple tweak to suit your own style is enough. Sometimes it’s only a little bit broken and only needs a tiny fix.
glazed lemon poppyseed muffins
adapted from ginger lemon muffins, Mom’s Big Book of Baking
makes 1 dozen muffins
360 g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
4 tsp poppy seeds
2 large eggs
160 g granulated sugar
grate zest of one large lemon or 2 baby lemons
40 g lemon juice
200 g milk or buttermilk
1/2 c (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
30 g whole milk
100 g powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon zest (from half a small lemon or about 1/4 of a large lemon)
make the muffins
Preheat the oven to 350 F/ C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and poppyseeds.
In a large bowl, quickly beat eggs, sugar, milk/buttermilk, lemon zest and juice, and butter.
Mix dry ingredients into the wet batter and scoop into the muffin pan so each cup is just about full.
Bake 20 – 25 minutes until the muffins are springy when pressed lightly in the middle.
Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Let them cool completely before glazing.
glaze the muffins
Whisk together milk, powdered sugar, and lemon zest until smooth and no lumps remain. For thinner glaze, add more milk, and for thicker glaze, add more sugar. The consistency should be like maple syrup: pourable and drizzle-able but not soup-y or too thick like frosting.
Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the muffins and let it set up/dry out before eating.
previous monthly muffins
Many people claim that North Carolina summers last until October, but the mornings and evenings are already feeling less like that place where my upper arm meets my ribcage and more like autumn. And the sun is sleeping much longer. Gone are the days of bright, sunny six o’clock in the morning, and here has come the season of seven o’clock sunsets.
Soon I’ll be able to step outside without my glasses fogging up. Huzzay.
We don’t normally think of blueberries as autumn fruits, but it is yet early autumn/late summer, and as long as the farmers are selling them, I’m sure as hell buying them. I’ve had blueberries in my freezer all season and am only just beginning to finish them up (I just really like blueberries muffins and pancakes, okay?)
Blueberry muffins, with lemon zest and/or buttermilk, are a classic, but I was curious to see if I could make them gluten-free. It took a lot of flour combinations and binder substitutions (I don’t buy xanthan gum; I’ve heard some people say they don’t like it when doing gluten-free baking), but now at the end of the hot and stormy season, I have found a few combinations that work for me, and I’m hoping they’ll work for you, too.
There’s no xanthan gum or anything super crazy in these muffins (though the agar-agar batch did turn out pretty well), and the flours are pretty common: white rice is always my base for gluten-free pastries, plus brown rice, chickpea, or soy flour (choose one or any combination thereof), or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, buckwheat, and bound together with any starch (corn, tapioca, potato), baking soda, and baking powder. The first few batches tasted metallic, and most of the middle batches were gummy or crumbly, but the last few held together like their glutinous brethren and actually tasted like they were meant to taste.
These muffins will be more tender than glutinous muffins, naturally, and they pack an intense lemon flavor. I use about 2 cups or 200 grams of blueberries for a dozen muffins, but by all means, add more.
Muffins aren’t meant to last more than a day, and certainly no more than 48 hours. If you want to keep them overnight, wait until they’ve cooled off and wrap each muffin individually in plastic wrap. They can be left out at room temperature once they’re wrapped up. I usually microwave the muffins the next day, to bring back a little vitality and make them soft again.
gluten-free blueberry buttermilk muffins
adapted from blueberry buttermilk muffins, from Mom’s Big Book of Baking
makes 1 dozen
100 g white rice flour
100 g other gluten-free flour (bean flours recommended, but you can also use brown rice or buckwheat)
100 g starch (corn, tapioca, potato, etc.)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
2 large eggs (2-ounce/52-gram eggs), at room temperature
150 g granulated sugar
200 g buttermilk, at room temperature
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 c fresh or frozen blueberries (~200 g)
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine flours, starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a larger bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, buttermilk, and lemon zest. Whisk in melted and cooled butter until combined.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, then stir in the blueberries. It doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed, as ingredients will continue to combine when they bake, and you want to work as quickly as possible.
Divide the batter out among the muffin cups (I use a large cookie scoop), and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until muffins are springy to the touch. If they seem to be browning quickly, turn the oven down to 325 F/160 C.
Leggo my PSL, yo,
High on sugar cookies from my last baking endeavor, and surrounded by spring, spring everywhere, I wanted to make more sugar cookies, but I wanted to do something exciting…and fresh.
I love lemons almost as much as I love cheese or orange juice. Lemonade brings back childhood memories of cul-de-sac parties and dangerous neighborhood fireworks displays on July 4th. It also brings back memories of a failed lemon meringue pie that tasted like feet.
Lemons are an all-year-round fruit but lemon things are best in the summer. I made these cookies for the first time a few years ago, my last year in college, during my last semester. I only made them once but they were unbelievable the first time. The original recipe called for lemon frosting, an orgasmic addition to an already orgasmic cookie, but I wanted to make them my own this time…and I just didn’t have the energy to make any frosting. I played with the recipe a few times (approximately five times), and once I had settled on something…a few more times (approximately a hundred more times.) I don’t remember them being this addictive three years ago.
Unlike the previous recipe (basic sugar cookies), these are simple and forgiving. The dough doesn’t have a lot of flour and it’s very light. You don’t have to fight to make it cooperate, and because you roll and bake (rather than rolling, cutting, and baking), you can use up all the dough immediately (or save some for a midnight snack.) But be careful you don’t go crazy with the lemon. They are pretty intense cookies, and I love all the lemon, but one batch collapsed before I added the flour because I was little…overzealous…with the lemon juice.
And if you intend to share them with friends, make two batches: one for you, one for everyone else to deal with. Or hide the first batch from yourself, because they’re seriously addictive like the cheese and olives at my grandma’s house. Make sure, though, that you can find them again when it’s time to share.
There’s something special about lemon, I discovered while making these cookies. It tingles all over your mouth but especially along the sides and the back, making you salivate. It’s addictive. I tried making these without the sugar coating and, while they’re still amazing and addictive, the extra sugar on top makes the difference. It’s a clean, refreshing contrast to the texture of the cookie, and adds a sweet balance to the tart lemon. It’s like salt on the rim of a margarita glass, a precursor to something sensational.
lemon sugar cookies
makes 30 ~ 36 cookies
226 g unsalted butter, softened
240 g granulated sugar, plus a few tablespoons for coating
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 T lemon zest (zest of 1 lemon)
480 g all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
milk and lemon juice, if needed
If using a conventional oven, preheat to 350 F/175 C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 1-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until consistent and fully mixed in, 2-3 minutes.
Add the lemon zest a little at a time (~4 additions) and beat.
In a separate smaller bowl, combine salt, flour and baking powder.
Beat the flour mixture into the batter slowly, at least 8 additions and combining fully each time. The dough should be light and fluffy, almost like frosting, but not stick to your hands too much. If it’s too stiff or dry, add a little bit of milk or lemon juice until it’s a good consistency.
Fill a small, shallow bowl with the extra granulated sugar, and another with some flour (a few tablespoons.) Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, scoop the dough and roll between your hands so it forms a ball. Flour your hands if you need to. Then, roll the dough balls in the sugar. Place on the baking sheet a few centimeters apart, and bake for 10 minutes, until they’re dry on top. Don’t let them brown too much except on the bottom, or they’ll burn. They’re best taken out a little early, and they’ll firm up as they cool.
If using a toaster oven, toast at 740 W for the same length of time.
Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and finish cooling, and prepare yourself for Heaven.
Lemon Love Y’all