Yesterday, I had the sudden urge to go running outside. This may not seem very newsworthy, but I rarely, if ever, have these urges. So when these urges strike, I have to take advantage of them immediately. Every now and then, I will go for a run on a beautiful day and feel refreshed and fantastic. More often, I go on a run, my knee starts hurting towards the end, I get bored or lost, or my legs start itching so badly that I have to wobble home (don’t ask why this happens; I think it is because my legs aren’t always used to getting blood flow at such high rates making them itch like craaaazzy).
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the run. So, I waited for Andrew the H to get home at 6 so that we could run “together.” Which really means that we walk to the bottom of our hill and run separately. Unless I want to run at an all out sprint, my little 5 foot 4 self can’t keep up with his 6 foot 4 self. No sprinting for me, thankyouverymuch.
As we reached the end of the hill, I told Andrew, “Go ahead. I am going to walk for two more minutes. You know, finish warming up.”
Andrew: “Okay, plum, but hurry up. I don’t want to worry about you if it starts raining.”
Me: “Um, okay. Well I don’t think it will start raining. Go on. Get outta here.” And right there, my peaceful jog was ruined.
Did I forget to mention that the weather man had predicted thunderstorms all day, starting at oh, noon? It hadn’t rained one single drop all day long, and while it was a little cloudy at 6 p.m., I could still see the sun peaking out and decided that Mr. Weatherman had obviously gotten the weather report wrong this morning. It wouldn’t have been the first time. But here Andrew was, totally cursing me. As soon as he said that, I knew I was screwed. And I couldn’t turn around because that would be quitting, and I don’t quit when Andrew is watching because I will never hear the end of it (we are both incredibly stubborn people). So I started running earlier than I wanted to, up the first hill that I usually walk because who likes running up hills? Not me.
Everything was going well, and I was pumping away to the new Adele song at about halfway through the run. Then I felt it. A rain drop. But it still wasn’t very cloudy, so I figured that I could make it home by the time it really started raining. Wrong. Downpours. Like torrential rain. And there I was, only halfway through the run. Did I mention that I am not a runner? That I only run between 60 and 80 degrees outside? That I wouldn’t even be classified as the occasional jogger? I tried to pick up the pace, but we live in Charlottesville, and it is close to impossible to find a flat running route that recreational “joggers” can run comfortably. I tried to book it up the moderate incline back to my house. Cursing and crying and half hoping that I would see Andrew coming to pick me up on the side of the road because that is what husbands do, right? I contemplated hitchhiking but chickened out (pretty sure no one would have picked me up anyway). My life flashed before my eyes, and I thought about what might happen to Henry the dog if I didn’t make it through this run.
After what felt like an eternity, I finally made it to the gate of my apartment complex. And then the sun came out. The rain stopped, and I just sat there, in complete awe, totally drenched. Seriously? It was like the clouds rained on me, chewed me up, and spit me out right when I got home. I hobbled to my apartment and collapsed on the bedroom floor as Andrew emerged from the bathroom.
Me: “Where were you?! I almost died out there!”
Andrew: “Well, I was trying to hurry. I was actually about to come looking for you when I got out of the shower, but I kind of thought you might have turned around at the beginning.”
Me: “Hmmph. Never! I am so upset. I almost hitchhiked home in a lowrider that looked especially sketchy. More sketchy than the usual lowrider.”
Andrew: “Well, it was probably good for you to run in the rain. It builds character.”
Me: “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard ever. All I want is Edy’s Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie ice cream. That is the only thing that will make this better. This is a life or death situation.”
Andrew: “Okay, I don’t want you to die. I will get some cream.”
I was so distraught that I forgot to ask why Andrew thought I would have turned around at the beginning of the run if I wasn’t there when he got home. Sometimes it is better to just think to yourself, “Uh huh. Your thought process there makes complete sense. Right.”
While Andrew popped over to the store, I decided to prepare a celebratory dinner for making it through the run of my life. And the only thing that sounded good was chicken scaloppine (or piccata depending on what you call it). This chicken dish is literally foolproof and always turns out juicy and perfectly cooked, which is not always easy when cooking chicken breasts. Plus, I had everything in the pantry. I have also included my two favorite sauces for this dish below. One from Frank Stitt of Birmingham’s Bottega and Highland’s Bar & Grill is incredibly flavorful and may be my favorite, but it is definitely a little more time consuming (but still really easy) calling for a few more ingredients and a few more steps. Ina’s version is my go to for a quick dinner and is distinctly lemony. I recommend that you try both because they are both delicious. And this would be a great dish to serve when you have dinner guests (with Stitt’s sauce? Perfection.) Served with an arugula salad and creamy polenta, this dinner was the perfect end to a rather traumatizing afternoon.
I am happy to report that I can now check “running in the rain” off the bucket list. But I can hardly move my legs today so if you need me, you can find me on the couch, watching reruns of Bethenny Ever After and Food Network.
Chicken Scaloppine (or Picatta) with 2 Sauces
Inspired by Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita and Ina Garten
Serve with: Arugula Salad (dressed with olive oil, lemon, and shaved parmesan) and Creamy Polenta (not pictured above)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon milk or water
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs or panko (japanese bread crumbs) (I use whole wheat when I can find them)
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or olive or canola)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place each chicken breast (I do two at a time) between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin or small skillet (or meat mallet if you have one), flatten chicken breasts until they are about 1/4-inch thick. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
Set out three shallow breading pans or plates in assembly-line fashion. On the first plate, put the flour. On the second plate, mix the eggs and water or milk. On the third plate, place the panko (or bread crumbs) and parmesan cheese. Season each plate lightly with salt and pepper.
Dip the chicken breast in the flour and coat both sides. Shake off excess. Dip the floured chicken breast next into the egg mixture, coating both sides well. This ensures that the bread crumbs will stick to the chicken breasts. Next dip the chicken breast into the bread crumb mixture, making sure to coat each side well. Place chicken breasts on a rack or plate to rest. Repeat with the other chicken breasts.
Heat a large ovenproof pan (or cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat, and add the oil. Once the pan is hot (test with a bread crumb to ensure that is hot, otherwise you will not get the desired browned crust), place the chicken breasts in the pan. Important: Do not crowd the pan! I usually brown two breasts at a time, then add a tiny bit more oil and repeat with the other two chicken breasts. Brown on both sides until golden (about 3 minutes per side), adjusting the heat as necessary to achieve a uniformly browned crust.
Transfer the pan to the oven (or the chicken to a sheet pan) and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a rack to rest briefly.
While chicken is baking, choose your sauce from my two favorites below. Both are lemon butter sauces. Bottega’s is flavorful and definitely my favorite, but it is a little more time consuming. Ina’s is easy and lemony, perfect for a quick dinner with only a few ingredients.
Bottega Lemon Butter Sauce:
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 dried red chile pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 stick, cold unsalted butter
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
While chicken bakes in the oven, combine the vinegar, shallot, chile, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook until the pan is almost dry. Add the cream and simmer until it reduces to about a teaspoon. Whisk in the butter little by little (I melt about a tablespoon at a time) over medium-low heat until the sauce is creamy and emulsified. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and the juice of the lemon half.
Slice the chicken on the bias (if you are getting fancy) and arrange on serving plates (or if you are not being fancy, simply place each chicken breast onto a serving plate). Spoon the sauce over the top and garnish with the diced tomatoes and capers.
Ina’s Lemon Butter Sauce:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2/3 cup lemon juice (from 4 lemons), with lemon halves reserved
1 cup dry white wine
Sliced lemon, for serving
Parsley, for serving
For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat, and then add the lemon juice, white wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Boil mixture over high heat until reduced in half, about 2-4 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter a little at a time and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and remove from heat.
To serve, place one chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce over the chicken and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.