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Visiting cook expands home’s repertoire

September 8th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Cooking tips, Food in the news, Food selection, recipes

I had the privilege to visit out-of-town friends this past weekend, and they let me prepare dinner for them one evening. It was fun in multiple ways:

  • I got to cook for people I love, which is always a delight.
  • I made a dish I haven’t made in I don’t know how long.
  • I got to revel in the glory cast by these simple dishes.
  • It reminded me of how much family cooking is negotiation.

When we sat down, you’d have thought I’d presented them something stupendous by serving Chicken Piccata and Abruzzi-Style Potatoes (along with broccoli and a bakery coconut cream pie). In fact, I simply presented things they frequently eat (chicken breasts and potatoes) but in ways they don’t usually eat them.

I wasn’t sure how the meal would be received, actually. Alan lobbied for beef or veal, which caused Maxine to wrinkle her nose. She wanted something that used some of the herbs she grew this year and preferred chicken or fish, which caused Alan to scowl, as he wanted a change from those mainstays of their home cooking. That’s when I thought of Chicken Piccata, which bears a taste resemblance to Veal Piccata, even if the texture’s a bit different. Thus Alan could have pretend veal, and Maxine could have chicken. In the process, they’d both get more butter than they typically use. The potatoes use lots of rosemary, so Maxine got her way there, too, but we went with the cream pie rather than a fruit pie to appease Alan.

Alas, I didn’t take pictures, but here are the recipes for the two featured dishes. I adapted them from recipes from two of Kansas City’s many noteworthy Italian cooks. These dishes are easy, and maybe a little outside your normal routine. Try them!

Chicken piccata

  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper or to taste
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, or a mixture of 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine, or water
  • Juce 4 lemons and slice remaining 2 lemons
  1. Pound chicken with saucer edge or meat mallet until about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into serving-size pieces.
  2. Dip each chicken piece in lemon juice then dredge lightly with flour and place on waxed paper. Sprinkle with white pepper. Reserve remaining lemon juice.
  3. Heat butter in skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Saute chicken pieces until golden brown, 2-3 minutes on each side. Work in batches if necessary so that chicken is not crowded. Remove to baking dish or pan, trying to keep in a single layer. Bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, brown lemon slices in pan drippings; remove slices and set aside.
  5. Add remaining lemon juice and wine to pan drippings. Bring to a boil, and reduce by about half over medium heat while scraping brown bits from bottom of pan.
  6. Remove chicken from oven, pour sauce mixture over, and top with browned lemon slices. Serve immediately. Makes 6-8 servings.

Abruzzi-style potatoes

  • 3 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Halve potatoes or cut into thick slices. (If potatoes are very small, leave whole. The aim is to have potato pieces of approximately the same size, good for one or two bites.)
  2. Sprinkle pepper flakes, rosemary, garlic, olive oil and salt over potatoes. Toss to mix well.
  3. Roast 40-50 minutes, turning occasionally, at 400 degrees, until browned. Potatoes will be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Makes 6 servings.

Note: My friends didn’t have red pepper flakes, but a generous dose of ground black pepper worked very nicely.

Lemons photo courtesy Jane M. Sawyer, via

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • maxine and alan

    The dinner was just delicious. How lucky we were! What made it even better was having our dear friend spend time with us and even cook for us!

  • Steve and Seánan

    Thank you for the recipes.

    As to the ‘cooking for friends’ aspect, one of us is to have a lunch guest tomorrow. The guest is not only from out of town, but also from out of the country — indeed, from out of the hemisphere. It’s a day early, and that ‘cooking for someone I love’ buzz has begun. The plan is for ‘simple’ and ‘local’ with generous sides of laughter and catching up on lives.

  • Janet Majure

    M & A — I guess we’re all lucky. xo

    S & S — Welcome back! Enjoy your friend and your meal.