This is an Italian dish that makes chicken breasts meltingly tender and exciting with the help of mushrooms and artichokes. If you don’t have artichokes, use zucchini. I have had too many bland and slightly overcooked chicken breasts and when I first discovered this dish I made it all the time, with copious amounts of white wine. Glass for the chicken-licken, glass for the cook, bash fingertips as chicken breasts get pounded, more wine, burn garlic, more wine, out of white, let’s have some red, scrape chicken off floor, etc. If I could make this dish while incapable, anyone can do it.
Then I sobered up and forgot about the recipe because I wasn’t cooking with wine any longer.
As it happens Scaloppine di pollo works just fine without any wine. I sometimes use creme fraiche as well as cream, or some chicken or vegetable stock.
Earlier I was reading tributes to the flamboyant, lovable and maddening Keith Floyd who was the first creative television chef to show everyone how easy it is to cook and how easy it is to get it wrong. He ran his popular restaurants into the ground one after another, went through four marriages, claimed to be bored and misunderstood and was perpetually bankrupt. I can’t understand why so many journalists are shy to state the obvious: Floyd was hopelessly alcoholic.
AA Gill puts things in a nutshell:
‘I can’t in all honesty say that I’ll miss him. I was once sent to interview Keith in the south of Spain, where he’d retired: one of his many retirements, all hurt and self-pityish, to escape from the ravages of unions, socialists, philistines, do-gooders, traffic wardens, political correctness, immigrants, critics and sober bores who had apparently taken over Great Britain, the country he loved except for everything it did and everyone in it.
I found him in one of those sorry expat Costa del Sol pubs at 10.30am, necking pints, leaning on a bar with half a dozen hacking, pasty-faced, nicotine-fingered taxi drivers and nightclub bouncers, flicking through The Sun while complaining about the football and the price of Marmite. Four hours later I left him slumped and insensible in an armchair, his sweet young wife apologising with a well-practised, half-hearted boredom as she tried to get him off the soft furnishings before his bladder gave up.’
SCALOPPINE DI POLLO
4 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice with some zest to taste
2 ounces white wine (skip this and just taste for the right acid balance)
4 ounces thick cream
1 lb butter or 4 sticks
6 (3-4 ounce) chicken breasts, pounded thin
a little oil, for sauteing chicken
a little butter, for sauteing chicken
1 small cup flour, seasoned with
salt and pepper, for dredging
6 ounces pancetta, cooked (or good back bacon, not too fatty)
12 ounces field mushrroms or ceps, sliced
12 ounces freshly boiled and cleaned artichoke hearts, sliced
1 tablespoon capers
1 lb capellini or thin spaghettini, cooked al dente
chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
1. Heat the lemon juice and white wine or stock in a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Bring to a boil and reduce by one-third.
3. Add cream and simmer until mixture thickens (3-4 minutes).
4. Slowly add butter until completely incorporated. (I often use less butter once sauce is unctuous.)
5. Season with Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper.
6. Remove from heat and keep warm.
7. Cook pasta and drain.
8. Heat a small amount of oil and two tablespoons butter in a large skillet.
9. Dredge pounded chicken breasts in flour and saute in pan, turning once, until brown and cooked through.
10. Remove chicken from pan and add remaining ingredients.
11. Heat until mushrooms soften and are cooked; add chicken back to pan.
12. Place cooked pasta on each plate.
13. Add half of butter sauce to chicken mixture and toss.
14. Taste and adjust, adding more sauce if needed.
15. Place chicken mixture over pasta.
16. Garnish with flat-leaf parsley and any unused zest.
17. Alternately, mix pasta and chicken mixture together.
18. Toss with lemony butter sauce.
Serves six or seven, fewer if men are involved