Back in January, when we took a brief, hastily planned visit to Los Angeles, we tried in earnest to secure a last-minute reservation at Suzanne Goin's much lauded Lucques. Unfortunately, it was fully booked (as was newish The Hungry Cat, where Goin's husband David Lentz is chef). Double whammy!
When we returned home, I licked my wounds by cooking from Ms. Goin's new cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques (a gift from my mother-in-law). If I couldn't eat in the restaurant, at least I could try to get a taste through making one of her recipes. Right?
The book is comprised of a series of menus for six that would provide plenty of inspiration for a well-planned dinner party -- well-planned because many of the recipes require quite a bit of preparation and forethought. The short ribs, for example, look amazing, but required more preparation time than I could muster. What's more, dinner parties aren't currently on our agenda, so I hunkered down to look for a recipe adaptable for just the two of us (Anya's happily subsisting on breast milk for the time being).
The menus are separated into four sections organized around each of the seasons. Each chapter opens with a rundown on the chef's favorite ingredients of the season, followed by the recipes. Where some cookbooks can be frustrating in their lack of organization beyond ingredient (meat, fish, pasta), the seasonal division makes it easy to focus in on just a handful of recipes that smartly take advantage of the season's bounty.
My first line of attack was to look for a winter recipe. Skimming past the more complicated one, I leafed through the book until I found what must be the easiest recipe in Ms. Goin's winter: Chicken paillards coated with breadcrumbs and Parmigiano and brown butter. She calls it a "retro classic . . . Parmesan meets chicken Milanese meets fried chicken." And it is excellent -- crunchy coated chicken cutlets doused with lemony caper brown butter, along with a side of escarole.
As winter has now turned into spring (and the weather is just starting to catch up with the change of seasons), I'm looking forward to revisiting the book again for new, seasonal inspiration. Next winter, I'll make those short ribs.
Kitchen Notes: (1) While the original recipe serves six, this variation serves four. (2) Fresh breadcrumbs are called for in the original, but I improvised with panko, the Japanese breadcrumbs. (3) Parsley is added to the breadcrumb mixture and the brown butter in the original, but I bypassed it since we we didn't have any. (4) The escarole is enlivened by chile de arbol in the real recipe. I skipped it here.
Chicken Paillards with Parmesan Breadcrumbs, Escarole, Capers, and Rosemary
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 extra large egg
3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons sweet butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 heads escarole
1 lemon, zest finely grated
2 tablespoons capers
1 sprig of rosemary
Kosher salt and black pepper
Butterfly the chicken breasts and pound them with a mallet to form thin paillards. Next, create an assembly line for coating the chicken. Place the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl. Toss the panko with the Parmigiano and pile on another plate.
You will probably only have room in your pan to cook the chicken in two batches. Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour, then the egg and the panko mixture, coating the meat completely. Add the chicken to a a saute pan that has been heated over high heat two tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter. Cook the chicken until golden brown on each side and cooked through and remove (if the chicken does not cook through before the panko threatens to burn, remove the chicken and cook it in the oven at 350-400 degrees until cooked). Repeat for the second batch.
Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, along with the rosemary and garlic. Discard the rosemary once the garlic has turned a light golden color and add the escarole. Season with salt and pepper until the leaves have wilted. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, remove from the pan to a serving platter, and top with the cooked chicken breasts.
Wipe out the pan with paper towel and, under medium heat, and the remaining butter and cook until brown and nutty. Remove from the heat, add the capers, lemon zest, and another squeeze of lemon juice. Spoon the brown butter mixture over the chicken and escarole and serve.