Chicken Piccata has a light, delicate, lemon sauce with capers, and is my favorite of all my husband’s recipes. The word piccata means to pound, as in to beat with a meat cleaver. Instead of pounding, Bo butterflies large chicken breasts — as shown here. Doing so doubles the number of pieces, and either serves a crowd, or produces plenty of leftovers for later. His reasons for not pounding poultry are shared below. This chicken, coated in a light, flavorful sauce, is melt-in-your-mouth tender.
We serve this dish over various types of pasta — lately we use gluten-free pasta, but because the sauce is thin and light, it is best served over angel hair, which is not meant for heavy sauces. We tend to reserve fettuccini, rotini, etc., for heavier sauces, such as my red sauce.
Bo has three recipes that are similar in the way they are prepared and served, but that’s where the similarities end. His Chicken Marsala has a heavier sauce and a mild or strong Marsala wine taste, depending on the amount of Marsala used. His Balsamic Chicken has a moderately heavy sauce, and a very strong balsamic vinegar taste. It, too, is a family favorite. Actually, everything he cooks is, or becomes, a family favorite! His Chicken Piccata differs with its light, delicate, lemon sauce.
How Much of What?
For this recipe, Bo says to use about 1/2 cup of flour, but keep in mind the amounts of flour, salt, & garlic used are dictated by the number of pieces of chicken you are using. For this type of recipe we don’t usually measure the flour. We simply scoop out some from our canister and put it onto a plate or into a plastic bowl. If using a plastic bowl, you can put the raw chicken into the bowl, snap on the lid, and shake it until the chicken is completely coated.
- 4 large boneless chicken breasts
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup flour (we use gluten-free flour) – the amount is dictated by the number of chicken breasts
- salt to taste
- garlic powder to taste
- 1 large, or 2 medium-size lemons
- white wine – again dictated by the amount of sauce desired, the wine, of course, is optional, but the alcohol will burn off during cooking
- 1 small jar of capers
- Mix together flour, salt, & garlic powder.
- Butterfly the chicken breasts, or pound them to the desired thinness.
- Dredge the chicken in the flour-salt-garlic powder mixture.
- Brown the chicken in very shallow olive oil.
- Zest the lemon peel while the chicken is browning.
- Slice and squeeze the lemons, and set juice aside.
- After browning the chicken and setting it aside to rest and drain paper towels.
- Make a roux by adding some of the flour-salt-garlic powder mixture to the olive oil.
- Stir the roux until it reaches a smooth texture, you may need to add some water.
- Add the wine, lemon juice, and zest. This creates a beautifully smooth, and flavorful sauce.
- Finally, add the capers and fold them into the sauce.
- Place the browned chicken breasts back into the sauce.
- Cover, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
- Serve over your favorite pasta.
Why Butterfly the Chicken, and Not Pound It?
True piccata is pounded for a thinner piece of chicken, but pounding usually involves splattering poultry juices onto the kitchen counters. Even if the raw chicken is covered with waxed paper or paper towels, some splatters manage to escape. To avoid the bacteria involved, he butterflies the breasts as shown above. The thinner pieces will cook faster; also doing this provides 2 pieces per person for a nice meal plus leftovers. In fact, he usually starts with 4 or even 6 chicken breasts. That way we can freeze some for one of those nights when neither of us wants to cook, or we can invite friends or family to help us consume this delicious meal.
Browning the Chicken
The primary cooking of the chicken will be in the oven, so in this photo, it is only lightly browned, not nearly finished cooking. Brown it in very shallow extra-virgin olive oil only until it reaches a light golden color.
Adding lemon zest to the sauce greatly enhances the flavor. We both like to use a small hand-held grater. Yes, you can buy dried lemon zest anywhere herbs and spices are sold, but there’s nothing like fresh lemon zest for flavor.
Making the Roux – Step 1
Using the olive oil that’s left from browning the chicken, add some of the flour and garlic mixture, and stir until any lumps are dissolved. There was not much oil left in this pan so, as you can see, this quickly became a very dry mixture. If that happens, or if you want to end with more sauce than it appears your roux will produce, just dissolve a bit more of the flour/garlic mixture in a couple of tablespoons of water, then add it to your mixture.
Here, a bit of the wine has been added to begin making the sauce. Stir until any lumps are dissolved. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest, stirring until you have a smooth consistency. Add the wine, stirring until you have a smooth consistency. Be sure all lumps are dissolved.If your sauce is too thin, dissolve a bit more of the flour mixture into a few tablespoons of warm water in a measuring cup or small bowl. Then add it to the sauce.If this doesn’t produce the amount of sauce you need, you can add more lemon juice and/or more wine. You can also add water, but that may create the need to add more seasonings, as well.
Capers: The Finishing Touch
The final touch in creating this delicious sauce is to add the capers. I like to include bits of lemon pulp, too. You are then ready to add the browned chicken breasts to this mixture, and pop it into the oven.
Hint: Some capers can be quite salty. If you, or one of your dinner companions has high blood pressure, or if you simply prefer a less-salty taste, you may need to rinse the capers in cold running water.
Into the Oven:
Pop the entire concoction into the oven to bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes. If you have a lot of chicken breasts, you may need to cook the dish a bit longer. You be the judge.