Chicken Piccata

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We were dance partners first. For three years. He had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend – our dancing together was nothing but that, and a good time. The local Lindy Hop teach­ers had given us all the material they had, and we sucked the knowledge out of all of our peers. We wanted more. This only meant one thing. Travel.

We heard about a clinic in Atlanta. National instructors, hours upon hours of dancing crammed into one weekend, it was close enough to drive, and Mystery Man had friends in the area who would put us up for a few days.

Paul and Cindy were friends when he was an inline skating instructor years ago. “Hey man! Good to see you. Dude, lets gear up and go for a trip around the park”. That is pretty much the first thing out of Paul’s mouth.

These people not only did a little inline skating, they lived it. It was their business. The garage did not hold a car, a lawn mower, a tool bench or anything else a normal person would have. It held hundreds of skates, pads, helmets, and two full leg plaster casts hung on the wall like trophies. Cindy took me in and fitted me with gear. We piled into the truck and went off to the park.

Now, I had been on skates before. The kind with four wheels NOT in a straight line. On a nice smooth hard surface. With music. Flashing lights. And a railing around the outside of the rink. No biggie. I can do this. This inline thing can’t be that much dif­ferent.

The beginning was good. I was upright. The street was level. Everyone was having a good time. It was a beautiful afternoon, not too hot for Atlanta. Cindy hung back with me to give me some pointers. Picking up speed I was getting a little wobbly and uncomfortable, but still holding my own. Until the hill. A steep cliff, really. One that lemmings would run off of and never see the likes of their family again. I hurled myself uncontrollably down the slope and then I committed the number one sin of beginner skater. I stood straight up. Locking my knees and flailing my arms, I was done. Jessica, meet street. Street, meet Jessica.

I learned a new word that day, besides the general skate talk. ‘Road rash’. All the way up my thigh’s backside and stopping right around the bootie area. It also said hello to my elbow. Luckily the padding warded off the asphalt to some degree, but my arm still showed quite a war wound.

Coming to my rescue, Cindy immediately jumped into skating coach mode. Helping me up, brushing me off, and assessing the damage. Determining right away that I was done for the day, she helped my wobbly, bleeding behind to the truck. The guys would skate home.

The next morning started a full day’s worth of dance instruction. I woke up in the guest room and rummaged through my suitcase. A skirt was in order for the day – I couldn’t imagine pants rubbing on the wound, even if it was covered. I needed fresh bandages, so I finished getting dressed and wondered out into the house looking for Cindy to help me out.

Cindy wasn’t there. Paul wasn’t there. They left hours before us for a skate marathon. Crap. Now what?

I shyly approached my totally platonic dance partner. This was not going to be good. These bandages were way, way, up the leg. He agreed to help me out. I spent next several minutes bent at the waist, lifting up my skirt, with him on his knees trying his best to place the gauze. A perfect gentleman about it, I was soon fixed up and we went on our way.

Paul and Cindy continue to open their house to us without question. Whether we are passing through for one night or in town for a week-long conference, they are always eager to lend us a place and a home cooked meal. The evenings on their patio with good food, wine and stories are ones to remember, even if some memories include the term ‘road rash’.

This is one of my favorites that Cindy was generous enough to share with me. I make it on a regular basis and hope you will, too.

I did finally conquer inline skating. This is me at the Deluth Inline Marathon (right) and the Disney Inline Half Marathon (left).

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Chicken Picatta

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3 breasts)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for a gluten free meal, use corn starch)

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons capers (rinsed)

1 lemon (peeled, seeds removed and sliced very thin)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons parsley

Preparation:

• Slice chicken in half lengthwise to make two thin cutlets each. (Place on cutting board and press down on breasts with one hand while horizon­tally cutting the chicken with a sharp knife.) You should have 4-6 cutlets.

• Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap (or into a plastic bag) and pound with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer to an even 1/4 inch thickness.

• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet (12”) over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

• Pat chicken dry with paper towels.

• Salt and pepper chicken on both sides.

• Coat with flour on both sides, shake off excess.

• Place cutlets in the heated skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until chicken is no longer pink in the center, it should be slightly browned.

• Remove chicken from pan and cover with foil. Set aside.

• Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet and add garlic. Saute’ for about one minute.

• Add wine and broth wine. Whisk or stir to incorporate the garlic and loosen any bits from the skillet. Bring to a simmer and reduce by about half.

• Stir in capers and lemon slices. Return to boil and add butter and parsley.

• Add chicken back into the skillet and warm through.

• Serve over your favorite pasta.

Note: Cooking for two? Reduce the amount of chicken by half. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as written. Freeze half of the sauce for a fast and easy weeknight dinner (just thaw sauce, brown chicken and serve over pasta!)

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