This is absolutely one of my fallback dishes for entertaining families when I don't know how finicky the kids' palates are. My kids usually eat the grown-up version but occasionally one of them has a relapse of sorts and declares the sauce (which he loved the week prior) to be unfit for human consumption. Suddenly the simplified version of chicken breasts and rice or potatoes with no sauce is all he will touch. This is exactly the kind of flexible option that doesn't make the cook (aka you) nuts and vaguely irritated since you will make one dish, just one, that allows the blander eaters to enjoy the meal without rendering the adults bored out of their skulls.
Serve this with rice or mashed potatoes, or any starch you love. A simple salad and some sautéed green beans will round it out nicely.
1. Place the flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a wide shallow bowl and use a fork to mix them together. Coat the chicken breasts in the flour mixture.
2. Heat a very large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add 2 or 3 of the chicken breasts, whatever will fit comfortably in a single layer in the skillet, and cook them until golden brown and almost cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the browned breasts to a plate and repeat with another tablespoon of oil and 2 or 3 more breasts until all of the chicken is cooked to this stage. If you are planning to serve some of the chicken breasts without any sauce, see the Fork in the Road box below.
3. Don't clean the skillet! Add the shallots and garlic and cook over medium heat until they are tender, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, if using, and the chicken broth and stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Simmer until the liquid reduces slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the slightly undercooked chicken (any pieces that are going to be served with the sauce) to the pan and let them simmer to finish cooking, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Add the lemon juice, butter, and capers to the skillet and stir until the butter is melted. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle it with parsley, if desired.
Note: To pound chicken breasts place them between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin or a mallet to firmly but gently pound the breasts until they are about 1/2-inch thick throughout.
Fork in the Road: Any amount of chicken can be removed from the pan before it gets all sauced up, so whoever wants a plain piece of chicken will get one. Cook them through for about 4 minutes on each site and set those breasts aside on a different plate. Keep warm.
Cooking Tip #1: So you can either pound the hell out of some chicken breasts or buy thinly sliced chicken cutlets and save yourself the whacking. Having said that, if you were to make this with regular skinless, boneless chicken breasts without pounding them this, that's very fine, too. Just cook the thicker breasts for about 5 minute on each side and make sure they finish cooking all the way through without the sauce. It's nice to slice the chicken on a diagonal before serving since most kids won't tackle a while chicken breast, and it just looks very appetizing in general.
Cooking Tip #2: You don’t have to add the little bit of butter at the end, but it pulls the sauce together deliciously, adding flavor and silkiness. And two teaspoons of butter is negligible when divided among six people, so no stressiness there.
What the kids can do: Kids can help pound the chicken breasts, which is a nice change of pace from trying to keep them from pounding each other. They can mix up the flour mixture, dredge the chicken breasts in the flour mixture, and sprinkle with the parsley, if desired. (Wash hands!)
From The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman
Andrea Reusing is the creator of the restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of the book Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the techniques behind three of her favorite recipes: Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad.