Chicken Piccata, Parmesan Smashed Potatoes, and Chianti for a Cold January Night

Inspired by all of the warm-lighted, cozy and down-home, family-run Italian Cafes we seem to stumble upon when traveling about, below is a simple recipe for one of our favorite Italian chicken dishes along with three elegant chiantis to create an “Italian Cafe” meal at home during the cold month of January.

Chicken Piccata (taken and slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa)

4 split (2 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 & 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon halves reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sliced lemon, for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Chicken piccata recipe

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound it out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper on a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the eggs and 1 tablespoon each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, then dip in the egg and bread-crumb mixtures.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add 2 chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan while you cook the rest of the chicken. Heat more olive oil/butter in the sauté pan and cook the second 2 chicken breasts. Place them on the same sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the sauté pan with a dry paper towel.  On medium heat, melt 2-4 tablespoons of the butter and then add the lemon juice, white wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Pour sauce over the chicken that has been finishing off in the oven, sprinkle with fresh parsley and garnish with a few thinly sliced lemon wheels.* Serve with whipped mashed potatoes and fresh crisp peas!

*When I first made the sauce for this dish I felt it was way too lemony and so over time I added less lemon and a little more butter which helped to smooth out the sauce into a more balanced tasting finish. And so, my advice is to experiment a little with the portions of lemon to butter to wine that suits your tastes the best.

Parmesan Smashed Potatoes* (taken from Ina Gartner’s Barefoot Contessa)

3 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. kosher salt
1 & 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon of salt in a 4-quart saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer covered for 25 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are completely tender. Drain.

In a small saucepan, heat the half-and-half and butter.

Put the potatoes into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix them for a few seconds on low speed, to break them up. Slowly add the hot cream and butter to the potatoes, mixing on the lowest speed (the last quarter of the cream and butter should be folded in by hand). Fold in the sour cream, Parmesan cheese, the remaining salt, and pepper; taste for seasoning and serve immediately. If the potatoes are too thick, add more hot cream and butter.

I have also included a recipe for Polenta below as a yummy winter warm comfort food that also goes well with the Chicken Piccata.

*Want more mashed potato recipes? Check out this post by Olivia Rose from My King Cook for the 15 Best Mashed Potato Recipes: “How to Make Mash Potatoes and Make it Less Stressful…

Polenta (taken from The Fine Arts Cookbook II, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 1981)

1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
5 cups cold water
1 tsp. salt
1 & 1/2 cups very sharp cheese, grated
1 small jar pimientos chopped
1/2 tsp. pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp. oregano leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp. butter

Place corn meal in top of double boiler. Gradually add 1 cup cold water and salt and stir until blended. Cook over direct heat, stirring constantly until the meal is well blended. Remove from direct heat and place over boiling water in the double boiler. Add gradually 4 cups of cold water.  Stir constantly until mixture is well blended and begins to thicken. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add grated sharp cheese, pimentos, pepper, and oregano. Cook until cheese is melted. Butter a deep casserole or soufflé dish and pour the mixture into the dish. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and dot with butter. Bake at 375 degrees F about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Three Bowls of “Just Right” Porridge

“The snow started and didn’t stop. Icy winds banged against the window as if they wanted to come inside and warm themselves by the fire. The gale howled, the drifts mounted around the house. Three weather advisories warned us not to leave unless absolutely necessary. Inside, the house was cozy,” writes Ruth Reichl in her new book My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life.

Reichl finds comfort and sustenance in her kitchen, where her everyday cooking and baking is inspired and directed by the natural rhythms of the seasons, the day-to-day elements that we awaken to each morning – sun, rain, sleet, hail, wind and snow – and that the earth needs to rejuvenate, grow and flourish.

Below please find three recipes for oatmeal that offer a cozy comfort and help to sustain one through early morning storms.

Ms. Reichl writes: “So cold. Heavy snow-swollen sky. Butter-toasted oatmeal, rivers of thick cream, brown sugar. Fresh orange juice; such fragrant hope.”

homemade oatmeal recipe

ATG’s “Just Right” Creamy Hot Porridge 

1 cup McCann’s Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal
1 tbsp. butter
2 cups cold water
1 cup milk
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 heaping tsp. good quality honey
Sprinkles of Cinnamon

Melt butter over medium heat in saucepan. Stir in the cup of oatmeal and swirl around quickly and just enough to coat the grains of oats being careful not to burn. Pour the water and milk in and slowly bring to a boil staying with the oats and stirring almost constantly. Add the salt while stirring. Once it comes to a boil lower heat to low and keep stirring thoroughly to keep from any burning. Stir in the brown sugar and continue to stir until the oatmeal thickens to the point where there is still a bit of liquid left and remove from stove. Stir in the honey and more milk if desired (we like our oatmeal to be just right – not too thick, not too thin), pour in bowls and sprinkle each with cinnamon. Enjoy!

oatmeal porridge recipe

Sunday Morning Oatmeal (taken from Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten, 2006)

1 & 1/2 cups whole milk, plus extra for serving
1 & 1/2 cups quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 banana, sliced
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup golden raisins
Pure Maple Syrup or brown sugar, for serving

Heat the milk plus 2 cups water in a medium saucepan until it starts to simmer. Add the oatmeal and salt, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Off the heat, stir in the banana, cherries, and raisins. Place the lid on the pot and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Serve hot with maple syrup or brown sugar and extra milk.

Butter-Toasted Apricot Oatmeal (taken from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl, 2015)

1 cup steel-cut oatmeal
1/2 cup dried apricots
1 tsp. salt
Brown sugar

Begin by melting a dollop of unsalted butter in a small pan until it becomes fragrant and slightly golden. Toss in the oats and worry them about until they’re glistening, have turned slightly brown, and are very fragrant; it should take about 5 minutes.

Add 4 cups of water and the salt; turn up the heat and bring to a furious boil. Turn the heat down very low, cover the pot, and cook until most of the water has evaporated; this process should take about half an hour. At the last minute, stir in a handful of chopped dried apricots, heap the oatmeal into warmed bowls, and top with a few crumbles of brown sugar and a generous drizzle of cream.

how to cook oatmeal

See also our recipes for spirit warming drinks.