Last week, more than 500 high school culinary students attended the Austin Food & Wine Alliance's annual Culinary Arts Career Conference, a one-day event at the Palmer Events Center to showcase the many ways that these young chefs can turn their love of food into their profession.
For the third year, I was on hand to give away hundreds of cookbooks, some of which were gently used books donated by readers as part of our cookbook drive. The rest were new books that I receive as review copies from publishers, and one of the new cookbooks I gave away this year was written by a teen chef not much older than these high schoolers.
Nineteen-year-old Eliana de Las Casas was the grand winner on Food Network's "Chopped Teen Tournament" in 2014, and she's since written a few cookbooks and started a spice company called Spice It Up. She's been cooking seriously since she was 4 years old, learning her family's Cuban, Honduran and Filipino favorites, as well as the dishes that make her hometown of New Orleans famous.
Her newest cookbook, "Teen Chef Cooks: 80 Scrumptious, Family-Friendly Recipes: A Cookbook" (Rodale Books, $19.99), features an array of recipes that introduce new cooks to basic dishes that they can use (and adapt) for many years to come, including a stone fruit clafoutis, a breakfast casserole or everyday dinners, such as lettuce wraps, stuffed peppers, breakfast casseroles and this chicken piccata.
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Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I’m always ready for a scrumptious, lemony Italian chicken. If you’re in a rut and can’t think of what to cook, this is a great dish for you to make. This recipe calls for ingredients that most people already have on hand, so you don’t even have to worry about making a trip the store.
— Eliana de Las Casas
1 pound whole-wheat linguine
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup whole milk
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut into 2 thin cutlets
6 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup chicken broth, divided
1 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon capers
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Put the milk in a separate medium bowl. Dip the chicken pieces in the milk, letting any excess drip off, then dredge them in the seasoned flour to coat.
Use two large skillets to cook all the chicken at once without crowding the pans. In each pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Divide the chicken pieces between the pans and cook for 7 to 8 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown.
Add 1/3 cup of the broth and 1/2 cup of the lemon juice to each pan. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir half the capers and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt into each pan.
Serve the chicken over the pasta with a wedge of lemon for squeezing. Serves 6.
— From "Teen Chef Cooks: 80 Scrumptious, Family-Friendly Recipes: A Cookbook" by Eliana de Las Casas (Rodale Books, $19.99)