Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chicken picatta

When I make chicken picatta for the fam, this is pretty much how I do it.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied or pounded to 1/3 inch thick
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
juice of 1 lemon (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth (if you're using bullion or broth packets, for faster reducing just use 1 1/2 cups of water but still two cups worth of bullion)
1 tablespoon butter (optional; adds a richness to the flavor, but it'll still be tasty without it, though not quite as thick)

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Mix together the flour, salt and pepper on a plate; mix the lemon juice, capers, and chicken broth in a glass measuring cup. Put olive oil in a saute pan, heat over medium-high heat until it's hot (sorry I'm not more accurate here; I just know when it's ready. Sorta shimmery, right before the smoke point). Dredge the chicken breast pieces in the flour (I usually do about three at a time, as that's how many will fit into my pan). Place in fry pan and cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked thru, about 4 minutes or so a side. Remove chicken to plate with paper towel. Repeat for the rest of the chicken, adding oil if necessary. When the last of the chicken is done, deglaze with the juice/broth/caper mixture, scraping up any browned bits. Allow to reduce to about 1-1 1/4 cup liquid. Take off heat and add cold butter if using; stir in until melted. Add chicken to coat, plate chicken and put sauce in serving bowl.

I enjoy serving with cheesy polenta and asparagus.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The (new) Wright Place on Sixth (closed)

Sad update: the Wright Place on 6th is no more.

We've visited the Wright Place on 6th before under it's old management and chef, and the food was quite good (and the atmosphere excellent). We were a bit apprehensive about the fact that it was now under new ownership, with a new head chef, but the sample menu online looked very interesting, so we decided to go for it.

SOOOOO glad we did.

I've been lucky to eat at some excellent restaurants across the country - in New York, Chicago, and the Bay Area. Now, I'm not exaggerating when I say that this meal could have competed easily in any of those markets.

We arrived early so we sat in the lounge for a bit. The lounge is new - it used to be a small secondary dining room, where we had actually eaten the majority of our meals at the Wright Place. The lounge area is nice though, as it gives you somewhere where you can relax in a more intimate setting than at the bar. Joshua wanted a sweet and fruity drink, so I ordered him an Apple Pear martini. I actually managed to stick to my gestational diabetes guidelines (more on that later), so I got a water.

When we were done with drinks we were shown to our table in the main dining area. This part hasn't changed much (or maybe even at all); there's still a lowly lit atmosphere that encourages quiet talk.

Now we got down to the menus. There were two different menus, a Table d'Hote Menu and an A la Carte Menu. Both menus change daily with what's available locally and seasonally. Of course, this makes me a very happy person, as I adore local and seasonal more than almost anything... (yet I ended up with a main that was not local, but hey). The Table d'Hote menu is the same thing as a Prix Fixe menu; you get two or three courses selected from a couple of options for a set price. I adore Prix Fixe menus... but i had to go a la carte, because they had duck. Smoked duck.

First came our amuse, which we forgot to take a picture of. It was a shrimp in a tomato (and something else) foam, with a thin crouton with a dab of corriander (cilantro) gel on it. It was very tasty, and set the tone for what was to come very well.

We got whole grain rolls with dinner (well, sort of; I requested a whole grain and was given a white, and Joshua was kind enough to trade with me). They were served with butter topped with smoked sea salt. Nummers. (There's one carb down - three to go)

For our appetizers, I ordered the smoked duck breast, with spinach, red onion, poached egg, and English mustard foam. The waitress suggested I break open the egg as soon as I got the dish, so the yolk could act as a sauce for it. I did so with glee.

It was really beautiful. They smoke the duck themselves, and it was just the right amount of smoke (and no fakeness to it at all). The flavors were perfect together; I can't even describe how delicious this was.

Joshua got the Cauliflower veloute (a cream soup based on veloute sauce), with pieces of fried cauliflower, black truffle shavings (done at the table), and brioche. I got to taste, and the flavor and texture were wonderful (I'm rapidly running out of adjectives here). The cauliflower flavor was dominant, but with a very nice creaminess and just a hint (not overpowering) of the truffle.

Next, Joshua had ordered the beet salad, which we again forgot to take a picture of. There were two golden beets and one red beet, with arugula, hazelnuts, and powders (beet and hazelnut if i remember right). They do seem to really like the powders here, as there were more with dessert. Josh enjoyed it, I only tasted the powder to see what all the fuss was about. Neat, but not my highlight.

Then the mains arrived. I was happy and relived to see that the portions were what they should be - that is, not gigantic as is the case with most restaurants in the area. If you're a person that insists that you should get the most food calories possible in return for your dollar - don't go to the Wright Place. If you want the best food possible - do. (For my gestational diabetes, where I'm supposed to have 3-4oz of protein for dinner, along with lots of non-starchy veggies, and four carb servings - it was perfect)

Sea bass with roast shrimp, fennel bulbs, black trumpet mushrooms, gnocchi, and sauce of deliciousness +3 (I am completely spacing on the sauce, sorry). This was out of this world. The flavors were all so perfect and complementary I don't even know where to start. The sea bass was perfectly cooked, with an excellent crust and a wonderful flaky center. The fennel bulbs were tender and delicious, and everything mixed with the trumpet mushrooms was wonderful. The gnocchi filled my second carb spot of the night in a very tasty manner. The only part that was less than perfect was the roast shrimp, which seemed slightly overdone - but only was a detriment in comparison to the perfection of the rest of the dish. At pretty much any other restaurant in the area I would have accepted the shrimp without comment :).

I was so absorbed in my dish that I honestly am not totally sure what was in Joshua's. I believe it was a fillet from New Grass Farm (who supplied the meat for our wedding - and we buy most of our beef from! Glad they are doing well!), along with some braised ox shin, pearl onions, and I'm not sure what else. Josh gave me a taste and it was very, very good.

Last, because I still had two carbs to go, we decided to do dessert. This is only the second time I've had dessert since being diagnosed.

I got the hazelnut mousse with mascarpone cheese, banana and something else ice cream, candied hazelnut, and white chocolate powder. I totally forget what the sauce was, but it was very tasty. The ice cream was excellent, but the mousse was only good; I'm picky about my mousse texture and this seemed a little gelatinous to me. The flavor was very good though, so that went a long way. And it was very, very pretty. Again, the portions were far from huge, so this was my last two carbs of the night.

Joshua got the carrot cake, which came with a slice of dried carrot and a scoop of orange-cream cheese ice cream, and walnut powder. I had a taste of the ice cream, and it was great. Joshua said that the cake was really really good too.

All together, it was a wonderful meal, a new best for the area, and honestly it could compete with anywhere. I really hope everyone can give it a try. It's worth it.

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