One of the more interesting ideas that I’ve come across, for cooking, is the idea that a particular set of ingredients can be transformed from one dish to another, using different techniques. Which, now that I type it out, sounds inane.

I’ll give you an example, though, and you’ll see what I mean. Both the idea (at least, where I was exposed to it) and the example come from John Thorne in Outlaw Cook.

A ploughman’s lunch is a raw onion, some cheddar cheese, and some bread. Some beer or cider.

Take the same ingredients with some broth, and…French onion soup.

A neat little puzzle, there.

One of the things that I like about recipes from Alinea (which, haha, is also the symbol for the paragraph marking, a.k.a. the pilcrow, that I see all the time while I’m doing tech writing) is that they use familiar combinations in unfamiliar ways. Now, I think the chef likes to keep people more than a bit discombobulated, but that’s another story.

So.  I ran across a recipe for a lemon chicken sandwich.  Easy peasy:  Take some chicken, flatten it, fry it in butter, dump some lemon on top, add to sandwich.

But it got me thinking – it reminded me of something.  After a few minutes, I had it – chicken piccata.    Granted, chicken piccata usually involves breading, but it’s the same dish.

I like capers, but I’m the only one in the house who does. I made mine last.

Lemon Chicken Sandwich

1 chicken breast
lemon juice
spinach or lettuce leaves
mayo (optional)
capers (optional)

Put the chicken breast in a freezer bag and seal it, pressing out the air.  Use a rolling pin, wine bottle, or tin can to roll the breast to 1/2-inch thickness.  Make the breast as consistently flat as possible in order to let it cook 1) fast and 2) evenly.  Sprinkle salt and lemon juice on both sides of the breast and let stand for at least ten minutes.

Toast the bread.

Put a pat of butter in a skillet over medium-high to high heat and add the chicken breast.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until a brown coat forms, then flip the breast to the other side. Remove the breast from heat as soon as it’s almost cooked through and cover it; the heat will finish the breast.

Add more lemon juice – a couple of tablespoons – to the pan and raise to high heat. (Optionally, add a tablespoon or two of capers.) Use a spatula to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. As soon as the bits have come loose, remove the pan from heat and add a little butter. Swirl the butter into the lemon juice.

Assemble the sandwich. I put it together like this: bread-mayo-tomato-spinach vs. chicken-lemon pan sauce-bread. Cold side, hot side, eat.