Successes and Failures

The first time I made my dish, I chose to put it off until I went home during thanksgiving break, figured it would be best to have my mom there to help me since she has made it so many times. As I had talked about previously, I ended up picking the Barefoot Contessa’s chicken piccata recipe, which is the one my mom refers to whenever she makes it, so I thought I would give it a try myself.

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I found the recipe to be pretty easy to follow and my mom helped me whenever I had any questions, a good bonus. The actual process of making the dish wasn’t necessarily hard, just was kind of complicated because everything had to be done really fast and simultaneously. All of the chicken had to cook at the same time and rate, and then had to be taken out at the same time and put straight into the oven. Once it is put into the oven, you need to start making the sauce. If you want something else to eat with the chicken, you can make spaghetti to go with it. If you choose to make the spaghetti, now is the time to do so, that way the spaghetti will be ready when your sauce and chicken are.

Despite having to move quickly, the chicken piccata actually turned out really good, I was impressed it turned out so well—especially for never cooking the dish before and my family seemed to really like it as well. While we were eating it, my mom said “Wow this tastes better than mine usually does!” but it’s definitely a possibility she may have just been saying that to be nice, who knows.

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The second time making the dish didn’t turn out as well as the first. This time, I didn’t have my mom to coach me through it and tell me when I was doing the steps wrong. This time, I had to cook it all on my own with a completely different process and ingredients. One of the main struggles was my kitchen being too small. In my apartment, the kitchen is a lot smaller than the one at home and there’s a lot less counter space when cooking—with this dish you need counter space for all the ingredients and various steps the recipe calls for. Also, we didn’t have some of the utensils I used when I was at home, which made it difficult to gather all the ingredients together, dredge the chicken then transfer it to the pan.

As far as the final product goes, it was kind of a disappointment. The chicken wasn’t as flavorful, turning out blander than the barefoot contessa’s recipe. The same goes for the sauce, the flavor didn’t pop quite as much as the first recipe, probably because it called for less chicken broth and lemon. The second round of chicken picatta wasn’t absolutely terrible but wasn’t amazing either, it was only okay. I have to admit, one of the main reasons I was so dissatisfied is because the first round of chicken piccata went so well and turned out so yummy and I was sure I would be able to reproduce the first experience all on my own. In the end, I prefer the first recipe over the second as far as easiness and taste goes. Next time I make the dish I’m definitely using the Barefoot Contessa recipe over any others!

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The History of Piccata

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Even though the exact origin of chicken piccata is unclear, it definitely comes from the Italian culture, but it has been hard for Italians and Americans to narrow down exactly what the word “piccata” means. When translating it from Italian to English, it has several different meanings and originates from several italian words, the result being a mixture of possibilities (Sorosky Gray).  It is unsure whether chicken piccata was made by Italians in Italy or by Italian immigrants after they came over to the United States around the early 1930s. The name for a lemon and butter sauce differs in the various regions of Italy as well, making it hard to track down the exact location it originated from (Sorosky Gray).

Although the word “chicken” is usually in the title when searching for the recipe, the dish was actually originally made with veal and is sometimes made using other meat rather than chicken. The most common meat used is chicken, but duck and veal have also been known to be used in the dish. Pig brains, fish, shrimp and wild boar are more uncommon things that have been known to be substituted for chicken (Sorosky Gray).  I myself grew up eating just plain old chicken piccata and prefer to eat the dish with chicken, but “to each his own” as some people might say.

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Whatever you decide to use to make it, one of the main reasons piccata is popular is because it is known as a fairly fast and economical dish. The piccata sauce is said to be the perfect blend of salty, acidic and buttery flavors, then broth or wine is added to complete it. There are many different variations of piccata. The classic italian sauce usually consists of lemon, broth/wine, butter, salt and pepper and other ingredients are sometimes added to the lemon sauce like capers, parsley or even garlic to spice things up a bit and usually finished off by adding salt and pepper so it’s not too bland. Although it is untraditional from the original recipe, a few Italians have been known put their own spin on piccata by substituting lemon juice for grape and orange juice (Sorosky Gray).  I think this is a little strange, but who knows it might taste good! Then the chicken (or other meat used) is usually covered in flour before you make it. My mom adds breadcrumbs when making hers—adding her own personal touch—and I think it’s a great addition, it tastes so much better than using just the flour to coat it! There you have it, all different kinds of ways to make piccata.

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The Story

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To be honest, lately I have been really busy with school, homework and work, so when it came to choosing a recipe I didn’t really have much time to consider what I wanted to make, which left me picking something at the very last second. The night before I was supposed to have a recipe picked out, I ran to the library on my way home after work in search of a recipe. Of course, it took quite a few minutes to figure out where exactly I was supposed to find the cookbooks as well as how to get there and once I found the Italian cookbook section, they didn’t even have the book I has previously written down—or any others for the culture I was doing that I would be able to check out at that moment in time. I assumed they already got checked out by other students taking the class and decided to leave the library, unsure of how else I was going to be able to find a recipe so last minute. Once I got home I called my mom, who has a collection of cookbooks, in a panic and asked her if she would be able to find any recipes I could use for the class.

I ended up picking chicken piccata, which is one of the recipes my mother gave me, because it seemed to be just the right amount of difficulty, not too easy or terribly hard. I was pretty familiar with the recipe, I had eaten it before quite a few times back when I lived at home and I had first tried it from a family friend. I had never cooked chicken before because I had been too scared, afraid I would undercook it and get salmonella or something. So, I figured this dish would serve as a good experience in case I ever decide to cook chicken in the future.

While I visiting home last year, sometime on break, I discovered the Cheesecake Factory added chicken piccata to their menu and I was curious so I decided to order it, but once I got my entrée I was kind of disappointed. The dish was only okay at best; I personally prefer my mom’s homemade version because the recipe calls for chicken covered in flour with bread crumbs and the one I got at the restaurant wasn’t even breaded, an unauthentic version of the dish. I don’t really blame them since they aren’t an Italian restaurant but was still disappointed and will probably never order it from there again. I prefer a homemade version of this dish over one I ordered from the restaurant. I’m going to try to make the recipe my mom usually follows and hope mine will turn out just as well as hers usually does!

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