I almost never order chicken at restaurants. Somehow, chicken has gotten the reputation for being "boring" and usually, I'm more interested in trying fish or some kind of meat. There is one chicken dish that I will always order, however – the chicken Milanese at I Nonni. I worked at I Nonni, a great Italian restaurant just outside of St. Paul, the summer after I graduated college and before I moved to New York. It was a great summer – the last time (probably) that I would live at home with my parents, the last summer I could be "a kid". (You're still a kid at 22, right?) I worked two restaurant jobs pretty much every day for those three months to save up money so that I could move to NYC at the end of August, and the nights I toiled away at I Nonni, I would usually end up ordering the chicken for dinner. Something about the lemony-buttery-bitter artichoke combination appealed to me – and of course, the crispy chicken and peppery arugula didn't hurt either.
Later that fall when I was feeling a little homesick, I attempted to create the chicken dish to bring back little bit of home into my apartment full of hand-me-down furniture and less-than-desirable neighbors. I've changed it a bit over the past few years, but every time I make this dish, it reminds me of home.
Pan-Fried Chicken with Lemon-Aritchoke Sauce (serves 4-6)
6 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
1/2-1 cup flour
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
4-6 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cups arugula
Parmiggiano Reggiano, for serving (optional)
6 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, chopped
2 14-oz cans artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
3/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup chicken broth
Juice of 1 lemon
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons capers
Place the flour, eggs, and panko into three separate, shallow bowls. Season the flour, and whisk the eggs lightly with a fork. Coat one piece of chicken lightly with flour, then dip into eggs, then panko so that it is completely coated. Lay on a baking sheet or cutting board, and repeat with remaining pieces of chicken.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add 1-2 pieces of chicken (depending on the size of your pan) and fry until golden-brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Keep cooked chicken warm in oven, and repeat with remaining pieces.
Once chicken is fried, let pan cool slightly, then melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low heat. When it has melted, add shallots and cook until soft and slightly transparent, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and add artichokes. Cook for 1 minute. Add wine, half and half and broth, and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining butter and flour and cook until thickened slightly, 2-3 minutes. Add lemon juice, slices, and capers, and season with salt and pepper.
To serve: place a piece of chicken over a handful of arugula on each plate. Spoon sauce over and shave a few pieces of parmiggiano reggiano over the sauce. Serve immediately.