Top | Lab Bench and Kitchen Sink

Old and New - Post the first

(post, Sara Jane)

Most of my daily effort goes into producing cutting edge scientific research to save the world through better diagnostics for a multitude of human diseases. But at the same time, I have a love for and fascination with doing things 'the old way', be that spending the time to make my own chicken stock, learn a classic french sauce, or take the time to seed and juice over a hundred pomegranates to make jelly for friends and family. On the surface, they seem very different. However, they have a number of common themes. Attention to detail for one. The imagination to figure out ways around obstacles. The need to start with quality ingredients, or quality data. To not be afraid to try new things, and to learn from your mistakes.

Something old to start with: my mother's recipe for chicken picatta. She must have made this recipe thousands of times for me growing up, but I'll never ever tire of it. Goes indelibly in my mind with my least favorite vegetable of all time: steamed broccoli. Despite my lingering childhood abhorrence, I do try and eat it regularly. Should also be accompanied with buttered noodles.

Chicken Picatta:

Ingredients: 
Chicken breasts, pounded thin
Seasoned flour, to dredge the chicken in (I like it with powdered garlic and onion, paprika and fresh ground pepper)
Olive oil and butter, in a pan, heating up till the butter foams
Half a glass of white wine
Juice of half a lemon
Several big spoonfuls of capers (mmm, capers)

Pound the chicken breasts thin so they will cook quickly. This can be wonderful stress relief after a long day. Dredge them in the flour to lightly coat and set aside while you get the pan heating up.

Pour enough olive oil into the pan to cover most of the bottom, and add about a tablespoon of butter. Turn the heat on medium high. When the butter froths, but before it starts to brown, add the chicken to the pan.

Most important step in the recipe: walk away for three minutes and have a glass of that nice white wine.

After three minutes, the chicken should be nicely brown on the bottom (I suppose I could up my molecular biology cred by talking about the Maillard reaction here, but this is comfort food, really) and look slightly wet on the top. Flip the chicken over, and walk away for another three minutes. Have some more wine if that's what it takes!

When the chicken is nicely brown on both sides and firm to the touch, remove to a plate. Deglaze the pan with half a cup of white wine and the lemon juice, stirring to get all those delicious brown bits into the sauce. Reduce it to maybe half or a third the volume. Add the capers, then the chicken back into the pan, and gently flip it around to coat.

Kick back and enjoy. Make sure you get plenty of capers, I'd say about 2-3 per bite of chicken is about ideal.