I apologize for being completely MIA lately. This enormous project for my internship has its due date popping its head out from right around the corner. To sum up my current lifestyle, when I am not working on my project, I am working at Napa Valley Grille, and when I am not working at Napa Valley Grille, I am, you guessed it, working on my project. The fact that I put pounds and pounds of unnecessary pressure on myself certainly does not help either. A friend of mine on her internship last trimester once said, “my project is done so I can finally start enjoying my internship” and at this point, I know I am going to absolutely agree.
One section of my project involves me having to make a meal (meat, starch, veg) for my Chef and have him critique it. I have been so nervous about approaching this part because, let’s face it, I haven’t exactly “cooked” much at Napa as far as the hot line is concerned. I knew that I had to do it and I had to do it soon, so I just went for it. It took me a little while to think about what I wanted to make (it couldn’t be something off the menu) and all of the sudden I heard myself asking Dan how he “felt about chicken picatta”? As the words came out of my mouth I thought to myself, “Sam, what are you doing? You have NEVER made chicken picatta before?!?!” But, it was too late. To make matters worse, Dan responded, “I LOVE chicken picatta. So, it better be good.” I obviously could not of backed out of it and looked like a coward. I had to just go with it.
Chicken picatta is a pretty basic dish consisting of, pretty much, a chicken cutlet topped in a lemon sauce. I knew that Dan loves risotto so I figured if I crash and burn with the chicken I can hopefully earn some gold stars for the risotto. And, for the veg, grilled asparagus. Who doesn’t like grilled asparagus?
I got started right away with my basic breading procedure for my chicken breast. I seasoned the flour, the egg wash, and the panko bread crumbs with salt and pepper to assure proper seasoning. I browned the chicken on both sides and threw it in the oven to finish cooking. And by threw I literally mean threw. I was a crazy mess throughout this entire procedure it was almost embarrassing. I marinated the asparagus in olive oil, salt, pepper, and threw those on the grill. Ok, I placed them on the grill because I didn’t want them to fall in between the grills. After the asparagus were placed on the grill, I got working on my sauce. I squeezed the juice out of two lemons into my saute pan along with a couple tablespoons of butter and, just for fun, a couple small ladles of white wine. I threw the lemon halves in the saute pan while I let the sauce reduce and added some salt and pepper in there as well. The risotto at my work is almost all of the way cooked. When making it, you basically just have to “bring it back to life” with some more chicken stock and add whatever you wish to it. “Be creative, Sam,” I thought to myself. Instead of adding cream, I thought I would add some mascarpone cheese to it as well as some delicious parmesan. The mascarpone cheese gave it that incredibly creamy consistency as well as added a pleasurable tang to it. I was very happy with it.
Then, it came down to the plating. Now, if you can try to imagine here, I was borderline FREAKING OUT during this part. For some very odd reason that I cannot explain, I thought I had to have this meal done ASAP or everything I made was going to get ice cold and I was going to fail my project and my internship forever. I am aware how unrealistic that is, but that was my mind set this morning. Anyway, the chicken breast was pretty big and the first plate I put down made the chicken look as though it was going to eat the plate itself. I tried again, tried to breathe, and just went with it:
I was really hard on myself with how it turned out. For my garnish I sprinkled it with some chopped parsley and deep fried 2 lemon slices to give it an interesting look.
The result? Okay. I was very happy with the juiciness I retained in the chicken breast as well as the overall flavor of my risotto. The sauce, however, definitely needed some more time to reduce. As I said, I have never made chicken piccata before and I greatly underestimated the amount of butter I was supposed to use. Dan told me I need to stop being so hard on myself and to sell him my dish, no matter what, with confidence. I told Dan that at the end of my internship I want to redo this entire dish, even though it will not count towards my project in any way, and he thought that was a great idea. I remember asking Dan, “have you had worse?”, and he replied “I’ve definitely had worse”. I’m just going to take that as a compliment.