• Tommy Centola

Quick meals perfect for busy season

The holiday season is now in full swing. With Christmas shopping and parties on the schedule, sometimes dinner takes a back seat. Although the weather calls for rich long cooking dishes, you often don’t have the time for that type of cooking.

So today, I have reached into my bag of Creole-Italian dishes and put together a meal that is quick and light. Chicken Piccata, Spaghetti Bordelaise and Vegetable Surprise are all dishes you can easily prepare on your busy schedule. They are also easy on your budget. This meal for 4 can easily be prepared for under 15 dollars.

Piccata in Italian means to be pounded flat. You want to make sure that all of the chicken is pounded to the same thickness. This ensures the chicken is cooked properly and evenly. The sauce is very light and favorable. You can also make this dish with veal or fish. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I had Sole Piccata that was out of this world.

Chicken Piccata

4 4-ounce Chicken Breast pounded thin

Flour

Creole Seasoning Blend

3 tablespoons Butter, divided

2 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons hot Chicken Stock or Broth

1/4 cup Capers

1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

Heat oven to 175 ℉. Season flour with Creole seasoning. Heat large sauté pan over medium heat. Dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off the excess. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan.

Turn the heat to medium-high and add the chicken, cooking it quickly. When the meat is done, place on platter in the oven to keep hot. Add the parsley, capers, lemon juice, remaining butter, and hot stock or broth to pan. Stir well and as soon as the sauce is bubbling, place chicken on serving plates and pour sauce over top. Serve immediately.

This is a traditional Creole-Italian side dish. It is the perfect accompaniment to any main dish. If you like garlic, this is the pasta for you.

Spaghetti Bordelaise

1/4 cup Butter

2 tablespoons Olive oil

4 cloves Garlic minced

3/4 teaspoon Creole Seasoning

1 tablespoon fresh Parsley, chopped

1 pound Spaghetti, cooked al dente

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the olive oil and warm for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and Creole Seasoning. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until the garlic begins to brown. Turn off the heat and add the parsley. Pour sauce over warm spaghetti and mix well. Let pasta sit for a few minutes before serving. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

To round out this quick meal, here is a vegetable dish that is sure to please. This dish holds a special place in my heart. I was planning the menu for the meeting of my mom and my future mother-in-law. I wanted to add a vegetable that was light, since I was cooking Shrimp Pasta, a dish I have since named for my mother-in-law. This dish came to mind and it was a hit.

Vegetable Surprise

2 Yellow Squash, quartered

1 Zucchini, quartered

3 tablespoons Butter

1/3 cup White Wine or Vegetable Stock

Salt, Pepper and Creole Seasoning

Over medium heat, melt butter in a large sauté pan. Allow butter to get hot, but not burnt. Add the squash and zucchini. Season with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning. Add wine and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender and all of the liquid has cooked off.


Not only are these dishes great for a busy schedule, they also are welcomed any time of the year. So get out and enjoy the holidays but don’t forget to spend some time eating at home. Except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, your kitchen can feel lonely and neglected in December.

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