Cooking Up Classics

Creating classic dishes at home doesn’t have to demand a stint at chef school or hours of prep in the kitchen. Here are three staples that stand the test of time – and the recipes are kept simple and doable for today’s busy cook.
Chicken Piccata will add a delicious, simple meal to any cook’s repertoire. You might find this easy dish becoming your go-to recipe when in a pinch for time (note my sidebar tip for keeping prepped chicken breasts on hand). Salade Nicoise can be quickly assembled using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry or refrigerator. And while Daube de Boeuf, the French classic, takes low, slow simmering in the oven, actual hands-on effort is very easy.
For dessert? Nothing could be more classic or well-loved than Strawberries Romanoff. Get the recipe at fwtx.com.
Chicken Piccata
Yield: 4 servings
Flattened chicken breasts cook quickly – as soon as they are browned, they are done.
4 chicken breast halves
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil, divided use
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup white wine or chicken stock
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Flatten chicken breasts (see sidebar). In a flat bowl or pie pan, stir together flour, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken breasts in flour mixture.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. When oil is hot, add two dredged chicken breasts and pan-fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove to a warm platter and repeat with remaining oil and dredged chicken breasts.
Add garlic and sliced lemon to the skillet and stir for about 30 seconds. Add wine and lemon juice; cook and stir to remove brown bits from bottom of pan. Let mixture boil until reduced by half. Add butter and stir until melted. Stir in parsley.
Serve chicken with sauce poured over.

Salade Nicoise
Yield:
6 servings
This classic from Nice traditionally uses canned tuna, making it an easy dish to throw together. Serve with a crusty French baguette.

Herb Dressing:
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (easy tip: buy freshly squeezed from Central Market’s produce juice counter)
1 teaspoon dried mixed French or Italian herbs
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
Salad:
1 ½ pounds new potatoes, boiled until tender
1 pound Roma tomatoes, quartered
½ pound fresh green beans, blanched
4 – 6 scallions, sliced
1 can whole beets, drained
1 cucumber, lightly peeled and thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped or sliced
½ cup pitted Nicoise olives (or other black olives)
4 – 6 hard-cooked eggs, halved
3 – 4, 4-ounce cans oil-packed tuna, drained

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, herbs, salt, pepper and mustard. Continue to whisk while slowly pouring in the olive oil. Store in refrigerator until time to serve salad or up to 3 weeks.
Arrange all salad ingredients on a large platter. Just before serving, drizzle on Dressing. Serve extra Herb Dressing on the side.

 

Daube de Boeuf
Yield:
6 servings
Because this beef stew simmers until tender, a less-expensive beef chuck roast is used. Serve with rice, mashed potatoes or by itself in a bowl.
2 slices bacon
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
3 pounds boneless beef cubes
2 onions, chopped
4 medium carrots, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cognac, brandy or sherry, optional
1, 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
2 cups red wine
1 cup beef stock or coffee
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons herbes de provence
3 bay leaves
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 325º. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon until crispy; remove bacon to a plate, keeping bacon grease in pan. Season beef cubes with salt and pepper. With heat on medium-high, add beef to pan in batches, cooking until browned on all sides adding olive oil as needed. As each batch is browned, remove to the bacon plate.
Add onions and carrots to the pan and cook 2 - 3 minutes, stirring. Add garlic and cook a few seconds.
Add cognac to onions; cook and stir until pan is almost dry. (If not using cognac, omit this step.)
Stir in tomatoes, wine, beef stock, tomato paste, herbes, bay leaves and beef. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop, stirring to melt the tomato paste. Cover pot and place in oven.
Bake 2 ½ hours. Just before serving, stir in parsley.