Thursday, March 24, 2011

healthy-ish dinner for three

Healthy eating is something I reserve for normal weekday meals, not dinner parties. Not that I'm using Paula Deen levels of butter in everything, but I'm more concerned with things tasting good than watching my calorie or fat intake. Because there is no fun at all in that.

But when Dan's dad Larry joined us for dinner two Sundays ago, it was following a day where we ate a lovely lunch (and several tasty cookies) at Bouchon Bakery then a pretty rich dinner of steak frites. I woke up the next morning with a food hangover. Which is worse than an actual hangover because you don't even get the chance to go wild.

Anyway, when planning our meal for the evening, I wanted something light, simple, and artery de-clogging. In situations like this, I often make chicken Milanese (pan-fried or simply grilled) topped with an arugula salad and big shavings of parmesan. Which is delicious, but also sort of boring. And then I thought about a chicken dish I made a few years ago that takes that basic idea to a higher level of deliciousness.

The recipe, by Lidia Bastianich, involves skinless boneless chicken breasts (yawn, I know...stick with me here) dusted in flour, browned in olive oil, then sauteed in a mixture of stock, capers, butter, and parsley. While you're doing all this, you roast two thinly sliced lemons in the oven until they are burnished and golden. The roasted lemons get tossed into the sauce, and the whole thing is served on a bed of spinach sprinkled through with breadcrumbs. Whew! Nice, right?

The roasted lemons are key, I think. They not only perk up the chicken, they are the small yet impressive sort of detail that edges this dish into dinner party territory. Without being completely bloating, if you're concerned about that sort of thing. 

Healthy-ish Sunday night dinner

Avocado crostinis
Sauteed chicken with capers, roasted lemons, and spinach
Roasted sweet potatoes
Strawberries and whipped cream
Sauteed chicken with capers, roasted lemons, and spinach
Adapted from Food + Wine. The original recipe calls for olives as well, but I find that capers provide just enough saltiness--and I love salt. I also forgot the breadcrumbs for some reason this go-round but they are worth including for sure. I have made this recipe with regular and Meyer lemons and find that regular works better, but if you have Meyer lemons on hand, they are a fine stand-in.
(Serves 4 people)

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 lemons, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 5 oz. bags baby spinach
2 Tbsp. plain dry bread crumbs
4 6 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, for dusting
1/2 cup pitted green Sicilian or Spanish olives, sliced (optional)
2 Tbsp. drained capers
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth (or water)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small dice
2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the lemon slices on a baking sheet and drizzle the lemons lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the lemons begin to caramelize.

Meanwhile, heat a large, deep skillet. Add the spinach and cook over high heat, tossing, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a strainer; press out the liquid. Wipe out the skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of oil in it. Add the bread crumbs and cook over medium high heat, stirring, until toasted, 2 minutes. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Set aside.

In a deep medium skillet, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust with flour, shaking off the excess. Cook the chicken over high heat, turning once, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add the olives (if using), capers and stock (or water) and bring to a boil.

Cook over high heat until the stock is reduced by about two-thirds, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted lemons, butter, and parsley, season with salt and pepper and simmer just until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Divide the spinach between plates (or one big platter) and serve the chicken on top, spooning the sauce over everything.


Julie said...

I've never had a roasted lemon before! You eat the rind and everything?!

Mike said...


And... did you coin the phrase "Food Hangover"? Cause if you did I think you're brilliant (think you're brilliant anyway, actually)...

Candiss said...

looks good! The lemons are very pretty and I'm sure it must taste good because I love all the ingredients :)

Lisa said...

Julie: Yep, if you slice the lemons thinly enough, you can eat the whole thing!

Mike: Ha, I don't think I can take credit for that, but I can't think of where I heard it first...

Candiss: Thank you!

Daniel said...

I believe you got the phrase from the major motion picture The Food Hangover starring Guy Fieri & Matthew McConaughy.

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

oooh, you're going to think I've gone off the deep end... but I'm not a caper gal! I'll switch them out for olives only (and probably roast extra lemons, just because they're lemons).

Lisa said...

Daniel: Very funny :)

Casey: Green olives would work just as well! And no harm in extra lemon anything in my book.

Sprinzette @ Ginger and Almonds said...

I'd eat this for supper anytime - I love anything with lemons.

Larry said...

I had a delicious time


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