Monday, January 30, 2006

Chicken Piccata with Nicoise Olives (Page 356)

  • Date: Monday, January 30, 2006 - 7:30pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Chris' Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Chris
  • Recipe Rating: B

Andre emailed suggesting that I make something with olives, so I picked this one. It is a simple dish: chicken breast, butterflied and pounded, then sauteed in butter and finished with a sauce built from pan drippings and olives. I thought it was good but not amazing. Chris really liked it though. The flavor of the sauce was good: the white wine balanced the brininess well. It was also quite simple to make and elegant in appearance.

I think my unwillingness to give this recipe a higher rating might actually be just personal bias. I very rarely eat just a big chunk of meat for dinner. I was a vegetarian for 10 years, from when I was 11 until I was about 21. It was during those years that I started cooking and became interested in food. I baked a lot as a child, and prepared vegetarian dishes for myself, but I never cooked meat. Even once I began eating meat again, I wasn't really very interested in it. I never ate meat when there was a vegetarian option available, and I still never cooked it. When I went to culinary school, one aspect of the experience that I was excited about was learning how to really deal with meat. I remember the first time I pieced a chicken at school, Chef Stephan came up to me and said, "Let me guess: this is your first time." We had several weeks of seminars on butchering and Chef Tony would always be yelling at me for doing something wrong! One of my classmates (and a dear friend), Norma, went up to my mother at culinary school graduation and said, "Your daughter is an amazing pastry chef, but she can't cook a chicken to save her life!" In some sense, she was right: when I entered school I really didn't know what to do with a chicken. But by the time I left, I had learned some things. Part of the motivation for this project is to learn more, and just gain more raw experience cooking meat, and other things I am not so familiar with.

After I started learning about meat in school, it started to really appeal to me again, for the first time in almost 15 years. Once I understood the subtleties in preparation and the difference between properly cooked meat and poorly cooked meat, I began eating more of it, mainly as a learning tool. Along the way I really began to enjoy it. When I was a vegetarian, people always asked me, "Don't you feel like you're missing out?" I really didn't though. Now, looking back, I feel like I missed so much in those 10 years! It's true that meat-intensive dishes like this one still feel a little off to me, but I enjoy them, and I enjoy learning to prepare them! I am looking forward to many more meat adventures throughout this project.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I suspect my inclination to give this recipe a higher rating (I suggested A-) had a lot to do with how well executed it was --- the chicken was tender and juicy on the inside, with a perfect browned exterior, and the sauce was very flavorful and rich --- perhaps Teena deserves more credit than the recipe, hard to say. In any case, I think it proves she sure did learn how to handle meat somewhere along the way! Maybe those niceties like pounding the chicken really do matter ...