When you think of Chicken Piccata, it’s easy to think “Old School Italian.” Images of run-down restaurants, long-simmering red sauces, and white tablecloths with candles stuck in old wine bottles might come to mind. Although it’s a classic, and solidly fits in the “Old School” category, this fresh, vibrant Classic Chicken Piccata will win you over.
So maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve had a classic Chicken Piccata or maybe you’ve never had the classic at all. It’s time to re/visit! I’m not talking here about the newer, crazy over the top but delicious Chicken Piccata you might find in certain restaurants – the chicken piccata that’s stuffed with cheese and/or covered in a cream sauce. And maybe some time I’ll make that recipe and post it. I’m talking here about real deal, bright lemony Chicken Piccata made just right.
About Old-School Classic Chicken Piccata:
I had actually forgotten all about Chicken Picatta which had kind of a hey-day back in the 1980s until just recently. My sister made some marvelous fish with a butter caper sauce; I was momentarily taken aback – what were those green things? I think it had been decades since I had eaten or used capers! And that reminded me of, you got it, Chicken Piccata.
And since then, Chicken Piccata has become a huge family favorite, any time of the year. While this is a perfect, no heat up the kitchen recipe in the summer, it’s even better in the winter when the bright lemony flavor of the chicken, the wine and the sharp little bite of the capers never fail to be a perfect pick me up on a cold, dreary, dull day.
Classic Chicken Piccata is easy elegance at it’s best, stunning on the plate, swimming in deliciousness, and beautifully fresh and delicate. It’s one of those recipes that’s simple to make but reads all gourmet. It’s on point and you’re going to look like a genius when you whip this up. I kept my Chicken Piccata low carb and served it up with Pan Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Asparagus that I make Standing Up in the Microwave. Pasta makes a great side, too.
Making Old-School Classic Chicken Piccata:
If you’re in a restaurant, you might find your chicken piccata butterflied (the breast opened up horizontally) and then pounded thinly. At home, you’re better off just slicing the breast in half horizontally and then pounding. Then each breast becomes two servings, which is plenty for a serving and you aren’t working with something so large it takes a whole pan to cook just one.
Even so, you’ll want to cook in batches (this is so fast it’s probably not a problem, about 8 minutes to heat up the pan and saute)or use two pans.
The recipe is simple, just salt and pepper the breasts, dredge in flour, fry up in olive oil and butter. When finished, add the wine and reduce, toss in lemon and capers and finish it off, after it slightly cools with a pat of butter. It’s best to dip the chicken back into the sauce and when serving, pour a bit of that golden deliciousness over the chicken. Garnish with parsley for that real old school touch!
Saving Money on Old-School Classic Chicken Piccata:
Shop carefully for your chicken and know the highs and lows in your area; normally chicken will drop to a rock bottom low once a quarter or so. The larger family packs are generally less per pound so pick them up and portion in sizes your family will use and freeze. Cutting down the size of today’s larger chicken breasts or cutting them horizontally and then pounding into reasonable serving sizes will help save money – and cooking time. Know your family’s appetites. Quite often you can serve one cutlet per person and still be perfectly satisfied. If you’re serving small children who just don’t eat much at a time, simply slice up the chicken at an angle and give them a few slices.
There is no getting around the fact that capers are a luxury item. Look for them on sale during holidays, and check items grouped for a quick sale in the store – in mine, they are often in a cart near the front at 50% off. “Buy by” dates have no real meaning when it comes to briny capers; they’re good literally for years. They could be cut back a bit in this recipe, too, if you want to stretch them. When using capers, strain over a small glass, then put the unused capers back in the jar and toss that brine back over them.
In season in the winter months, look for bags of lemon on special – crunch the numbers. There’s really not much reason to pay full price as lemons store well in a bag in the fridge as long as they’re kept out of condensation. Look for lemons that are heavy for their size. Use every bit – the rind can be grated and saved in a small Ziploc in the freezer for dressings or recipes. Cost for one lemon: 33 cents.
- 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally and pounded thinly
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup flour, for dredging
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (garnish with the other half)
- 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed and drained
- 1 tablespoon butter (additional)
- Parsley, optional
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly coat chicken in flour and shake off excess.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and melt butter. (If your skillet isn’t large enough, do this in batches, wiping the skillet clean before the second batch.)
When butter and oil start to sizzle, add chicken and sauté for about three minutes until lightly browned. Watch closely and make sure the butter doesn’t burn – turn heat down and take the pan off the burner to cool it a bit if it does. The butter should brown ever so slightly.
When chicken is lightly browned and done around the edge, flip and cook other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer to a plate.
When finished, add wine to the pan and reduce to a few tablespoons. Squeeze in the lemon and add the capers, add any accumulated juices from the chicken. Turn off the heat, let sauce cool for a minute and add the remaining tablespoon of butter, stirring into the sauce. Return the chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce.
Serve the chicken with a bit of the sauce drizzled over. Garnish with parsley, if desired.