This can be ready very quickly. Be sure to rinse the capers thoroughly, whether they’ve been preserved in salt or vinegar. You could even give them a brief soaking in milk to cover. Whatever you do, please don’t overcook the chicken breasts. This goes well with steamed green beans stirred with chopped crisp bacon and sautéed minced shallots.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dry French vermouth
Juice and zest of one sizeable lemon
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup good Madeira wine
2-3 tablespoons capers (see note above)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Chopped fresh parsley
Sprigs of fresh tarragon, to garnish
Lemon wedges (optional garnish)

Buttery hot basmati rice to serve three or four:

Simmer 1 cup basmati rice in 2 cups well buttered and lightly salted water or chicken broth for 12 minutes, tightly covered. Set aside for 3-4 minutes, and it should be ready.

Using a mallet or empty wine bottle, lightly flatten chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap to a fairly even 1/2" thickness. Season with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high and sauté the chicken for just about three minutes per side, in batches if necessary. Transfer to a plate and keep warm and moist under a foil tent.

Add vermouth and the lemon zest and juice to the skillet. Boil for a moment, scraping up the brown bits. Add cream, broth, Madeira, and any juices that have accumulated on the chicken plate. Boil to thicken, 8-9 minutes. Mix in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Taste carefully. Pepper? Thyme? More Parmesan? Nothing? Fine. Plate the chicken on a low bed of hot basmati rice, pour the sauce on and around it, and sprinkle with a bit of the Parmesan and the parsley, and finish with tarragon sprigs. Garnish with lemon wedges and pass any leftover Parmesan at the table.

Yield: 3-4 servings

Copyright © 1999 by Tom Steele. All rights reserved.