You’ve probably figured out by now that I am a chicken girl. Anyway you make it, I love chicken and I love trying out new chicken recipes. Yesterday I was looking for something different and also something quick. I just got back from a consulting job and was still on east coast time so I was still pretty tired. I wanted to fulfill my goal of one new recipe a week but did not have a lot of energy to put into it. I found just what I was looking for in the most recent “Cooking Light” magazine entitled the “fast” issue. It was labeled as a fast chicken scaloppine with peperonata (don’t you just love it when they give these fancy words for sautéed vegetables?) and it looked intriguing and quick so I decided to try it. So here is my rating and lessons learned…
Recipe rating: A – this one is quick cooking and has great flavor. I’m not so sure it holds up to it’s 25 minute meal guarantee and I will address that in my lessons learned.
Lesson Learned 1: This recipe takes longer than 25 minutes if you add the prep time. I’m not sure they factored that in, but it definitely took me a good 15 minutes or more to mince the garlic and slice the peppers, onions, tomatoes (of course I added some baby bella mushrooms so I won’t fault them for that). It also takes some time, not a lot, to halve the chicken breast and pound them to 1/3 inch thickness and dredge them in flour. When you factor all the prep time, all in all for the everyday cook like myself this recipe takes about 45 minutes from start to finish. No worries, one of my favorite parts of any recipe is the chopping, slicing and dicing – I find it cathartic – but recognize this recipe is more time consuming than the magazine would lead you to believe.
Lesson Learned 2: I halved the recipe since I was only making it for two. That worked out very well. The only thing I would change is to use even less than half the balsamic vinegar than the recipe stipulated. You only need a little to give the flavor. If you add more I think it darkens the vegetables too much, which I thought was the case with mine when I made it. Next time I make it I’ll only add a little, probably 1/8 of a teaspoon or less.
Lesson Learned 3: You will need to make this in two frying pans – one for the veggies and one for the chicken. I think it best to try to time them so they both finish together. The veggies can get cold very quickly and you don’t want that to happen. Err on the side of less time for the veggies instead of more. I started them 15 minutes before I planned to serve and I could have done 10-12. I like crisp tender veggies and 15 minutes put them on the borderline of being overcooked. Definitely cook the peppers first as they will need the full amount of time. But after sautéing them for 3 minutes, add everything else (except the tomatoes and garlic) and they will cook down nicely all together.
Lesson Learned 4: I used a basil paste in the recipe as my grocery store did not have any fresh basil on hand. You can use this, but again use only a small amount. I find the paste to be much more concentrated and a little goes a long way. Use a 1/4 teaspoon at the most.
Lesson Learned 5: The recipe called for adding the garlic when you add the onion. That would mean the garlic would be cooking for about 7 minutes. Garlic burns when cooked for a long time. I added the garlic when I added the tomatoes (and that cooked for about a minute and was done right before serving). That way the garlic cooked, was fragrant and it did not burn.
Lesson Learned 6: The original recipe calls for prepping the chicken once you’ve started the pepper mixture on the stove. I would not do that as you will probably wind up cooking your vegetable mixture for too long of a period of time. Prep the chicken first and put it aside. It can sit for a few minutes without any harmful effects and I found that slightly taking the chill out of it makes for a truer cooking time. I also added some garlic powder to the dredging mixture to give some additional depth of flavor.
Lesson Learned 7: It is tricky to cook a chicken cutlet and have it come out juicy. The original recipe called for it took cook for two minutes on each side or until golden and done. Boy, that gives you a lot of specifics doesn’t it. I cooked mine for 4 minutes on one side and 3 1/2 minutes on the second I could have cooked it a little less. Next time it will be 3 minutes on each side and I think that will be perfect. You get so used to cooking much thicker chicken breasts that sometimes it’s hard to imagine that the cutlets can get done so quickly. But they can and don’t be afraid of that. If you cook them too long they will dry out quickly. You don’t want that to happen.
I liked the recipe but felt I needed to make some adjustments to it based on past experience and in order to make it for two. Here is my version of the recipe.
Chicken Cutlets With Peppers, Mushrooms, Onions and Tomatoes For Two
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper sliced in strips
1/2 yellow bell pepper sliced in strips
1/2 large yellow onion sliced in strips
4 ounces (1/2 package) baby bella mushrooms sliced
1 large clove of garlic minced
8 grape tomatoes halved
1 TBS fresh chopped basil or 1/4 tsp. basil paste
1/8 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 boneless skinless chicken breast cut in half horizontally and pounded to 1/3 inch thickness
1/4 tsp. garlic powder for dredging mixture
2 TBS butter
Flour for dredging (about 1/3 cup)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cut the chicken breast in half horizontally. Place between two pieces of wax paper and pound until the breast is approximately 1/3 of an inch thick. Place your mallet at the center of the breast and pound outward. Take a paper towel and pat the breast halves dry. Mix flour with garlic powder and some freshly cracked black pepper. Dredge cutlets in the flour mixture and shake off any excess flour. Place on a plate to rest for a couple of minutes.
Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil. Swirl the olive oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan. Add the peppers and sauté for approximately three minutes. Add the onions and mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste. Continue to sauté for another 5-6 minutes.
After you add the mushrooms and onions to the vegetable mixture, in another frying pan over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 3 minutes on each side.
During the last minute of overall cooking time, add the garlic and tomatoes to the pepper mixture. Cook until tomatoes begin to wilt. Add the basil and balsamic vinegar at the very end of the cooking time.
Immediately serve the chicken with pepper mixture.
All in all this is a simple and flavorful recipe. If you want to adhere to the 25 minutes or less time frame that the original recipe touts, I would do all of the prep work the night before. That way it actually will be a very quick and very good meal. Enjoy this one!