Lemon-caper chicken on capellini


The pungent flavor of capers lends piquancy to the sauce of this elegant dish. Accompanied by capellini pasta (or fluffy long-grain white rice), crusty bread, and a crisp green salad, this dish saves the day when time is short and special guests are on the way.

Lemon-Caper Sauce 
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
One 10 ½-ounce can chicken broth
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
To complete the recipe 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Dash of salt
1 pound boneless, chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch-wide lengthwise strips
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups asparagus in 2-inch pieces (2 cups) 
2 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengthwise strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces capellini pasta
garnish (optional): snipped fresh chives, lemon slices

Begin heating a large pot of water over high heat for the capellini.

While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the sauce. Stir together the water and cornstarch in a small bowl or 2-cup measure until smooth. Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients; set aside.

To prepare the chicken, combine the flour, pepper, and salt in a shallow bowl. Flour the chicken by lightly pressing both sides of each chicken strip into the flour mixture.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Arrange the chicken strips in a single layer; cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until they are lightly browned but not cooked through.

With tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the sauté pan. Add the asparagus; cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the scallions and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 more minutes, or until the asparagus is tender.

Stir the sauce and pour it into the skillet; cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, or until the sauce becomes clear and thickens slightly.

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the chicken. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the chicken is thoroughly done. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

While the chicken is cooking, add salt, then the capellini to the boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, stir occasionally to separate the capellini. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or according to package instructions, until al dente; drain well.

To assemble the servings, arrange a bed of capellini onto each of 4 plates. Top with chicken strips and vegetables; drizzle with the sauce.