Chicken Piccata

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Chicken Piccata

In Italy, “piccata” is a method of preparing meat (typically veal) – the meat is sliced thinly or butterflied, tenderized, dredged in flour and cooked, then served in a sauce made from deglazed pan drippings.  Here in the USA, the most well known version of this Italian dish is made with chicken and is served in a sauce of lemon, butter, and capers.

Capers.  What are capers???  Capers are actually flower buds of Capparis spinosa (a.k.a. “caper bush”) – those flower buds are picked before flowering, then sun dried and pickled in a brine.  Taste-wise, they have a lemony/green olive like flavor and are quite piquant.  For chicken piccata, if you can’t find capers – you can probably substitute with chopped green olive.  However, I think this dish is best made with capers – and they are not hard to find – usually next to the pickles in the condiment aisle of the grocery store.

Pound your chicken cutlets with a meat mallet before cooking to tenderize and ensure that your chicken pieces are of even thickness.  Make sure you are pounding on a surface that can absorb the shock of the pounding (I put a small folded kitchen towel under a wooden cutting board), and make sure you dab the surface of the chicken with a paper towel to dry (so that chicken juice doesn’t splatter all over you and your face).

Chicken Piccata (4-6 servings):

Use capers, butter, and fresh lemon juice to flavor the sauce.

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder
  • 1/2 to 2/3 c. all purpose flour
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 14 oz. can (about 2 cups) chicken broth
  • 1/3 c. lemon juice (juice of about 2-3 lemons)
  • 2 T. capers
  • 1 T. flour + 1/2 c. cold water
  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley

1.  Butterfly the chicken breasts, then cut the halves apart to make thin cutlets.  Using a meat mallet, pound the chicken breasts to even thickness.

2.  Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt, fresh ground pepper, and garlic powder.

3.  Dredge the chicken breasts into the flour.  Shake the flour off then set aside.

4.  Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add half the chicken breasts.  (You will need to cook the chicken in two batches.)

5.  Cook for about 3 minutes until the bottoms are browned, then flip and cook another 3 minutes (until fully cooked and golden brown).  Remove the cooked chicken to a plate (cover with foil to keep warm), then use the remaining oil to cook the other half of the chicken.

6.  Turn off the heat and remove the second batch of cooked chicken from the pan.  Do not clean the pan – the brown bits stuck on the pan will help flavor your sauce.

7.  Pour the chicken broth and lemon juice into the still hot pan. (Be careful because the liquid may steam up.)

8.  Using a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits (fond) to dissolve into the liquid.

9.  Once the brown bits have all been scraped up from the bottom of the pan, you may want to strain the liquid to remove any lumps or chunks.  (You don’t have to do this – but your sauce will be much “prettier” if you strain.)

10.  Return the liquid back into the pan and turn on the heat.  Add the capers and bring the mixture to a boil.

11.  Dissolve the 1 T. flour into the 1/2 c. cold water to create a slurry.  Pour this mixture into your pan sauce to thicken.

12.  Simmer the mixture for 1-2 minutes until thickened and somewhat reduced.  Stir in the butter.  Taste the sauce and add more salt/pepper if needed.

13.  Arrange your cooked chicken on a serving platter, pour the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the chopped fresh parsley.