Capers are an ingredient that I always, always have either in my larder or in the refrigerator. I just adore their tangy flavour and the flavour boost they give to dishes that they are used in! I had never ever heard of them prior to moving over here to the UK.
Mind you I hadn't discovered pizza until my late teens, nor Chinese food! I had a really limited experience with food when I was growing up. It was all simple but good. Nothing fancy smancy, and I guess I carried that somewhat into my adulthood . . . with a few new discoveries along the way, of course!
Capers are the small flower buds of a Mediterranean shrub called Capparis . They are picked by hand which means they can be fairly pricey but they're a versatile store cupboard ingredient, and are good for adding a distinctive sour/salty flavour to many savoury dishes. Also a little goes a long, long way flavour wise, so they are not a bad investment as they will keep virtually forever in the refrigerator so long as you keep the berries submerged in the pickling liquid if you have bought the pickled ones and salt is a natural preservative so the salted ones keep virtually forever as well.
Really small, peppercorn-sized capers, called 'nonpareille' are available, but the slightly larger ones are more common. Capers are preserved a number of ways - either in salt, wine vinegar, brine or olive oil. The brine-pickled type has the sharpest flavour and is slightly less versatile than the salted type. For a more sophisticated caper flavour, you can try the elegantly stemmed caper berries, which are a little milder and sweeter than the standard type. I have a bottle of those in the larder, which I have yet to use.
I have become so fond of them that I could eat them all on their own, like a pickle . . . it is handy to note that if you can't get capers, sour gerkins make a great substitute.
They go really well with mild flavoured proteins such as chicken and mild flavoured fish . . . and they are great in tartar sauce! They actually help to bring out the best in these things . . . and when you mix them with lemon, it's a combination that just goes WOWSA in your mouth!
This dish here today is one of my absolute all time favourite chicken dishes. I could seriously eat it every night of the week . . . well, maybe not every night, but fairly often anyways!
The chicken is so tender in this . . . because it cooks so quickly and that sauce is just to die for. Buttery and lemony . . . with just the right amount of salty piquancy! I just adore this and I think you will too. It's quick and easy and just fancy enough to be considered special . . . special enough for dinner party fare, I do declare!!
*Chicken Filets with a Lemon and Caper Sauce*Serves 4
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces, divided
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
75ml Chicken stock (1/3 cup
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp parsley flakes
2 heaped dessertspoons of non pareil capers, rinsed and drained
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (or use cutlets)
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
45g flour (about 1/3 cup)
Salt and pepper
8 oz angel hair pasta, cooked and drained to serve.
Cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally through the middle so that you have 8 fillets. Put them in a plastic baggie, one at a time and pound lightly to 1/4 inch thickness throughout. Season liberally all over with salt and pepper. Mix together the parmesan cheese and flour. Dredge the pieces of chicken in this until well coated. Set aside.
Heat a swirl of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Once it is hot add the chicken and brown well on each side. (About 3 minutes per side. Don't overcook) Remove to a plate and then keep warm in a low oven.
Add 1 TBS of the butter to the pan. Reduce the pan to low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the chicken stock, sugar, parsley flakes and lemon juice. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half. Turn the heat down to very low. Start whisking in the butter a bit at a time, letting it melt before adding more. The sauce should form a thick silky emulsion. Stir in the capers. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.