Yay! It’s citrus season again!
We may take citrus for granted because lemons, limes, grapefruit and other forms of citrus are readily available year-round. But if you like to eat seasonally, as I do, you know the pleasure of citrus — and especially specialty citrus such as Meyer lemons — at its peak.
As I acclimate to Arizona, I find my appetite begins to long for a light, lemony supper-something just as the days grow shorter and the nights cooler. This variation on chicken piccata sure hit the spot one night last week, when it had been overcast and rainy all day, and my spirits wanted some brightening.
The dish relies on a bit of butter to thicken its sauce. Knowing the tricks of how to make what the French call “beurre monté” will advance your kitchen skills, and you soon will use this easy way to thicken a sauce without flour or cornstarch in many other dishes.
The classic beurre monté is simply butter whisked into a bit of water. But the technique can be used to thicken any kind of pan sauce, from wine or stock reductions to more complex blends. The ratio that works best for me is about one-quarter cup of butter to three-quarters of a cup of liquid.
The key parts of the skill: The butter must be cold when added to the liquid; the sauce must be swirled or whisked to keep the butter moving as it melts; and the emulsified sauce should never boil, lest it separate into an unappetizing oily mess. (Feel free to ask me how I know this.)
In this dish, the capers add their unique briny succulence, and the artichoke hearts contribute complexity from their marinade. You can leave both out if you wish and still have a good dish, but I find their addition makes the dish seem more luxe. In these days and times, I think we can all use a little luxury, especially if it doesn’t take much time, money or energy to bring that into our lives.
CHICKEN PICCATA WITH ARTICHOKE HEARTS AND FETTUCINE
Makes 4 servings
Use Meyer lemons if you can, but this dish is good with regular lemons. The rich dish comes together quickly (in about 12 minutes), so cook the pasta first and drain it so it’s ready when the piccata is finished. Serve with a tartly dressed salad.
2 medium lemons
¼ cup cold salted or unsalted butter
½ cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 thin-sliced chicken breast fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 pound cooked fettucine, for serving
4 lemon halves, for serving
Juice the lemons — you should end up with about one-half cup lemon juice. Set the lemon juice aside.
Cut the butter into cubes and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Drain the artichoke hearts, pat them dry, and chop. Set aside.
Place the flour in a large zip-top bag and season it with the salt and pepper. Shake to blend seasonings. Add the chicken fillets and shake the bag to make sure the chicken pieces are floured on all sides.
Heat a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet.
Lay the chicken fillets in the skillet and brown the first side for two to three minutes, or until golden. Flip the pieces and brown the other side, an additional two to three minutes. Remove the fillets to a plate and keep warm while you finish the sauce.
Stir the vermouth or white wine into the skillet and, as it boils, scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Let the mixture cook for two to three minutes or until reduced by a third.
Add the cubed butter to the skillet and swirl the skillet until the butter is melted. Keep the butter moving so the sauce doesn’t separate. The butter will thicken the sauce slightly.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the artichoke hearts and capers. Stir or swirl the skillet for a minute or two so the artichoke hearts and capers can heat through. Return the chicken fillets to the skillet and turn them once or twice so both sides are well coated with the sauce.
To serve, divide the fettucine between four plates or pasta bowls. Top each with a chicken fillet, divide the remaining pan sauce among the four servings and serve each with a lemon half so each diner can dress his own dish.
Robin Mather is a longtime food journalist and the author of
“The Feast Nearby.” Follow her
blog as she writes her third book, “The Feast of the Dove,” at