August 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tre Monti chef Marc Casadei shares his chicken piccata recipe

Casadei says Chicken Piccata, Rapini with Bacon and Crispy Roasted Potatoes show great food can be made with just a few ingredients. (Photos by Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)

Marc Casadei, executive chef of Tre Monti restaurant in Troy, says he has been cooking his entire life.

“As a child, I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house, and I think my love for cooking started there,” he says. “She is a San Marinese from San Marino, the oldest and one of the smallest republics in the world that is landlocked by Italy, and she loved to cook Italian. My first cooking memory is of making gnocchi with her. She would cut them out, and then my job was to use my finger to poke the little holes that hold the sauce. I was probably 6 or 7 at the time.”

Casadei’s mother was also a culinary influence. “We always sat down for a home-cooked dinner,” he says. “And if there was something I liked, she would teach me how to make it. I also watched a lot of cooking shows on TV when I was young, especially Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Martin Yan, who had a show called ‘Yan Can Cook.’ ”

After graduating from Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills, Casadei enrolled at Northern Michigan University in Marquette with the intention of becoming an electrical engineer. “But that road didn’t pan out for me, so I dropped out for a year or two but stayed in Marquette and worked in various kitchens and pizza places. And when I started thinking about what I liked to do, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in culinary art. So I re-enrolled and graduated from the college’s four-year hospitality program in 2006.”

Upon graduation, the chef decided to return to Metro Detroit. “I loved being in the Upper Pennisula but felt there was more professional opportunity here,” he says. And after working as a sous chef at Tre Monti for four years, Casadei was appointed the executive chef in 2011.

The Bloomfield Township resident says he chose to share his chicken piccata recipe with us for several reasons. “First, it’s a classic dish I remember my mother and grandmother making often when I was growing up,” he says. Second, “it’s fairly easy to prepare. Most people are afraid to prepare pan sauces at home because it sounds daunting, but it isn’t. And another good feature is that you don’t need a lot of pots and pans.”

He chose the rapini, Casadei says, “because I love it. It’s very versatile and great with beef, chicken or fish and I think everybody should try it.”

Adds Casadei: “A lot of chefs are too tired to cook on their day off, but I like to take advantage of the time I spend with my family and prepare at least one meal a week for them,” he says.

And in the future, when he has the time, Casadei hopes to write a cookbook. “I love to write recipes,” he says. “And I like to keep things simple, using only a few ingredients. My philosophy is that with the proper application of salt and good fundamental techniques, you can make really great food without throwing in a bunch of ingredients. You can use just two or three ingredients and make something very flavorful and nice.”

To accompany the chicken piccata, rapini and potatoes, Casadei recommends a field green salad and a chardonnay or Chablis wine. “I would also use the same wine to cook the picatta,” he says.

And for dessert, he likes the idea of something light, such as a panna cotta or a crème brulee. “And of course, homemade ice cream is good with anything,” he says.

Chicken Piccata

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, 6 ounces each
Pinch salt and pepper
½ cup flour
½ tablespoon canola oil
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
1 tablespoon butter, cold
½ teaspoon chopped parsley

Lightly pound chicken breasts to ½-inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper, then dredge breasts in flour. Add canola and olive oil to preheated sauté pan and cook chicken 2-3 minutes per side over med/high heat until lightly browned. Remove cutlets from pan and drain oil. Add a scant teaspoon of flour to the pan and deglaze with white wine. After wine has mostly evaporated, add lemon juice and capers. Stir in chicken broth, add chicken back to pan and boil until sauce thickens. Remove pan from heat and place chicken on serving plate. Whisk the cold butter into the remaining lemon sauce in the until fully incorporated. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Stir in chopped parsley and pour over chicken breasts. Serves 4.

Per serving: 312 calories; 11 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 32 percent calories from fat); 13 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 104 mg cholesterol; 404 mg sodium; 38 g protein; 0.5 g fiber.

Rapini with Bacon

1 bunch of rapini
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 strips of bacon, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
18 to ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (see note)
Pinch salt and pepper
½ cup chicken broth

Note: The hot red pepper flakes can be adjusted from 18 to ¼ teaspoon depending on the spice level you prefer.

Rinse rapini well and remove leaves, discarding the stems. (Optional: Florets may also be discarded if less bitter flavor is desired.) Heat the olive oil in a sauce pot. Add bacon and cook over medium heat until the fat is rendered. Leave bacon in the pot. Add garlic cloves to the rendered fat and bacon and sauté, stirring frequently until lightly browned. Add red pepper flakes and then the rapini and salt and pepper to the pot. Stir to coat in oil. Add chicken broth, bring to boil, cover and simmer 5-10 minutes until rapini has turned dark green and soft. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serves 4.

Per serving: 84 calories; 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 64 percent calories from fat); 5 g carbohydrates; 0.2 g sugar; 4 mg cholesterol; 251 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Crispy Roasted Potatoes

3 Idaho Russet baking potatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt for the water
½ teaspoon salt for the cooked potatoes
18 teaspoon black pepper
2 sprigs rosemary leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Peel potatoes and cut into large dice (6 pieces each potato). Place diced potatoes into a pot of boiling salted water and boil just until potatoes are soft all around the outside, but still raw in the middle. Drain well. While potatoes are still hot, toss with salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic. Add olive oil and toss again to coat. Spread potatoes in one layer on a baking sheet and let cool in the refrigerator for an hour or more. (This can be done a few hours to a few days ahead of time.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread potatoes in one layer on greased baking sheet and bake, turning potatoes about halfway through cooking until golden brown and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, approximately 30 minutes. Serves 4.

Per serving: 422 calories; 27 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 58 percent calories from fat); 42 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 446 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Judith Harris Solomon is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.

Marc Casadei cooks at his Bloomfield home. 'A lot of chefs are too tired ... (Photos by Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)