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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Something Old. Something New.

A simple twist with ingredients can turn something old into something new and interesting.  I love to make piccata and marsala recipes using both veal and chicken.  I make them very traditionally and usually serve them over some kind of pasta.  Whether it is served on angel hair, tagliatelle, pappardelle, linguini, or homemade fresh cut up torn pasta, I always use pasta as the base.
Last night, I wanted a change.  A curve ball.  Something new.

I decided to make paillards of chicken over sauteed spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti squash is an ugly thing with an awkward shape and big seeds, but is really simple to cook.  I halved it and braised it skin side down covered in a one inch water bath at 350  for an hour.  While the squash created its own little happiness, I prepared the chicken.
Using one boneless skinless chicken breast for two people, I split it in half, placed it between parchment paper, and pounded it into very thin paillards or escalopes.  I then set up a dredging station for a quick pan-fry. Three separate dishes were filled with seasoned flour, fresh minced garlic beaten with two eggs, and bread crumbs. I used an unsual combination of things for the bread crumb mix.  I tossed fresh bread slices and smashed  leftover oyster crackers  into a food processor with reggiano cheese, fresh parsley, salt, and black peppercorns.

I pulled the steaming spaghetti squash out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes to cool down.  Once cooled, I scooped out the seeds and shredded the flesh into glistening individual strands of pasta and tossed it with olive oil.  After thinly slicing red bell peppers, I sauteed the squash with the red pepper ribbons and tossed it all with fresh parsley.

I got my saute pan screaming hot and drizzled a few tablespoons of olive oil to heat through. While the oil heated to a smoke point, I dredged the chicken paillards in the flour, egg wash, and bread crumb mix. When the oil was obviously ready, I gently placed the chicken pieces into the pan and sauteed them until golden brown.  Afrer removing and tenting  the crisp chicken to rest, I deglazed the pan with chicken stock, white wine, and lemon juice, picking up every tiny morsel of flavor fond.

After the sauce reduced by half, I plated a swirl of spaghetti squash, topped it with the thinly sliced browned  chicken, and drizzled the pan sauce over all of it.  A brief shower of parsley, fleur de sel, and one last squeeze of fresh lemon finished it off.

It was familar and so different at the same time.  The squash strands were a culinary tromp l' oeil with their translucent shiny glow. The angel hair squash looked like pasta, but wasn't. Each strand was toothsome and soft with an extraordinary mouthfeel.  Light.  Like eating air. Well seasoned  flavorful air.  The still crisp red pepper provided a wet crunch that burst through herbed chicken breading and into the meat itself.  The wine stock reduction was the perfect salty bath while the lemon and parsley gave a crisp bright finish.  The fleur de sel, in all its glory, was the final defining pop.  Salty Pop Rocks!  Be still, my mouth.

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