Friday, 21 January 2011

Friday Fungus: Chicken with lemon and capers (but no mushrooms)

This is a mushroom blog about capers. OK so I’ve pulled you into this in the anticipation of a juicy porcini recipe and now you find me writing about capers – but bear with me and it will become clear!

...the unripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly, perennial plant which is native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. Their use dates back to more than 3000 B.C. where they are mentioned as a food in the Sumerian cuneiform Gilgamesh, an ancient retelling of a great flood and ark legend.

This of course makes capers quite unusual since we normally don’t eat flower buds but fruit or leaves. Now my interest in capers – other than as something tangy to eat – came from something I read ages ago about Pantelleria, an Italian island that is rather nearer to Tunisia than it is to Italy. Now the French like to say that the best capers are nonpareil capers – the tiny ones from Provence – but they would be wrong. The capers from Pantelleria – and from the other Italian islands between Sicily and Tunisia such as Lampedusa – are the best.

The classic caper dish is pasta alla puttanesca – literally whore’s pasta – which is made with capers, garlic and anchovies (and often, as with this recipe, chillies). However, I tend to think this can lose the capers’ flavour a little when it’s matched with those other strong tastes. But staying with the Sicilian theme, I like to use lemons with the capers to cook a great chicken dish.

Chicken with lemon and capers

Two chicken breasts with their skin intact
Seasoned flour to coat the chicken
Olive oil & 1oz butter – heated in a heavy frying pan
Juice of one good sized lemon
Good big table spoon of capers (if salted wash first)
Black pepper

Coat the chicken breasts in the seasoned flour and cook in the frying pan until golden brown (depending on the size of the breasts this can take up to 15 minutes – if they’re very plump, I will put into a moderate oven - 180° - for long enough to cook some rice, say 20 minutes, which ensures the chicken is cooked right through.

When the chicken is cooked and set to one side, add the lemon juice and capers to the pan and deglaze – you should have a slight thickened sauce (not too much as this is just to ‘wet’ the chicken not swamp it) with capers in. Pour this over the chicken and serve – just with boiled rice.

And, at the right time of the year, of course, a couple of sliced, grilled porcini would go very nicely too!


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