“We have not an hour of life In which our pleasures relish not some pain, Our sours some sweetness.” — Philip Massinger.
Why does sour get such a bad name? The word is practically synonymous with misfortune and unpleasantness. A business deal goes sour. A friend develops sour grapes. A neighbor becomes a sour puss. You can’t help but develop a sour disposition. In fact, under these conditions, your whole outlook on life may turn sour.
These expressions are hardly novel or recent. Sour has held its pejorative crown for centuries. The expression “sour grapes” dates back to William Caxton’s 15th Century translation of Aesop’s fable about the fox and the grapes. A century before that, Chaucer turned sour into an adverb, “That thou schalt with this launcegay Abyen it ful soure.” Indeed, nearly every luminary of English literature has cast his dark light on sour, working the word into countless phrases and uses.
Their ranks include William Shakespeare (“How sowre sweet Musicke is, When Time is broke, and no Proportion kept?), John Dryden (“Love once past, is, at the best, forgeotten; But oftner sours to Hate.”), John Locke (“When the Father or Mother looks sowre on the Child.”), Alexander Pope (“Touch’d at his sour retreat, Through hell’s black bounds I had pursued his flight.”), Lord Alfred Tennyson (“She sour’d To what she is: a nature never kind!”), Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Michael Angelo had a sad, sour time of it.”), and James Joyce (“The face was eyeless and sourfavoured.”).
Had he tried it in his day, Chicken Piccata, with the full array of lemons and lemon juice, might have had the Bard himself no longer regretting that, “The sweets we wish for, turn to loathed sours, Even in the moment that we call them ours.”
Recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home.
PREP TIME: 30 minutes
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
YIELD: Serves 4
WHAT TO GRAB:
2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups seasoned, dried bread crumbs (recipe here)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup lemon juice, lemon halves reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish
Salt and Pepper
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or in a plastic bag (no splattering!) and pound the breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick.
3. On a large, but shallow plate, mix the flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 pepper. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, then dip in the egg, and then coat in the bread crumb mixture.
4. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Remove the breasts to a paper towel, and let some of the oil drain. After a few minutes, place the breasts on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, turning the breasts over half-way through.
5. Wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 3 or 4 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve each breast on a plate, along with yellow rice and broccolini. Spoon on the sauce, and add the lemon slices and a sprinkling of fresh parsley!