I have a recipe for Chicken Piccata my whole family really likes. We are having a couple guests over tomorrow, and I'd like to make this recipe, but make it ahead. The guests are people we don't know personally, and it would be awkward to be cooking when they arrive. There is no baking/oven element to my recipe (just saute chicken, keep chicken warm while deglazing pan/making sauce, return chicken to pan to thicken sauce and absorb flavor of liquid, remove chicken, add some butter to sauce, add pasta to sauce and serve with the chicken). I'm worried that if I make it ahead, it will dry out the chicken/pasta. Any tips to make it work?
I don't think it is awkward to cook for your guests. After all, they are coming to dinner, right?
Anything you do here to prepare ahead will be a bit of a compromise. It won't be quite the same, but it shouldn't be dried out.
In any case, if you wanted to streamline, you could cook the chicken earlier, before your guests arrive, then chill. Be sure that you don't over cook your chicken, especially if you are using breasts. Don't go over 160 F. Leave the pan on the stove, you will use the brown bits for the sauce later.
You can also cook the pasta to about two minutes short of the package directions. Remove from boiling water to ice water to stop the cooking. Then drain and refrigerate. Don't discard the pasta water, you can use that later while finishing the sauce.
This approach will work best if the chicken is sliced. It will slice more nicely after it is chilled.
When your guests arrive remove your ingredients from the refrigerator so they begin to warm up. When it is time for service, heat the pan that the chicken was cooked in until it sizzles. Use the pasta water to de-glaze...using a bit more water than normal. Add the chicken and stir for 30 seconds. Add the pasta to the pan, with a little more pasta water, to re-heat. Add your butter and any other ingredients. If there is no liquid in the pan, add more pasta water. You should see it bubbling. Stir that around for one minute, but this should take no more than two to three minutes to avoid over cooking your ingredients.
If you are well organized, and don't over cook the elements in either the prep step or the re-heat step, it should work. This assumes the chicken and pasta are mixed. If they are not, you could reheat the chicken in a separate pan (maybe a steam set up?), or better yet, if you have the tools, this would be an excellent application for sous vide.