Chicken Piccata is a quick dinner comprised of a crispy pan seared chicken breast with a Lemon Butter Caper Sauce. This chicken has a bright, lemony sauce that’s just on the right side of tangy. It’s incredibly easy and amazingly tasty!
I realise it sounds totally obnoxious to call this a “better” Chicken Piccata. I should clarify and say that this is a better one to me. This dish is a wildly popular Italian-American classic that I’ve tried making over the years following other recipes. I’ve just never been impressed with the results though, leaving me feeling that I’m somehow missing out on the enjoyment of this dish. I always found the lemon sauce mouth-puckeringly sour to the point of wincing. I also felt it just didn’t have enough interesting flavour in it to carry a somewhat bland chicken.
So many recipes also called for an insane amount of butter and oil. Sometimes up to half a cup! What the … ??
My butt cannot afford that much fat for what’s supposed to a quick, midweek meal!
So this is my version of Chicken Piccata. The sauce is not as sour – I dial it in to just the right amount of lemon tang. I use less fat than most recipes too, and reduce the white wine through cooking to add complexity in the sauce. And as for the chicken? Add a dusting of parmesan. It makes it so much tastier!
What goes in (my) Chicken Piccata
So here’s what you need:
Chicken breast – 2 breasts will serve 3 to 4 people once we cut each piece into 3 and pound into thin steaks. You could also use thigh fillets (skinless boneless) or tenderloins;
Lemon – You need a fresh lemon here. Kind of defeats the purpose if you try to make this with bottled lemon juice!
White wine – Use any dry white wine that’s not too woody, too sweet or fruity. Chardonnay is particularly great because it adds a good amount of flavour.
The wine doesn’t make the sauce taste winey at all because we reduce it right down to cook the alcohol out and just leave behind the concentrated flavour that adds depth to the sauce.
Don’t use an expensive wine. The flavour and aroma that you pay for is largely lost during cooking. It’s pretty well documented these days by notable food authorities (such as New York Times Cooking) that you do not need to use expensive wines for cooking.
Substitution: If you can’t consume alcohol, use low sodium chicken stock/broth;
Capers – Use capers in brine, drained. The capers in salt (ie no liquid) are a little too salty to use here;
Butter – For cooking and also for the sauce;
Olive oil – For cooking the chicken; and
Flour & parmesan – For dusting the chicken. Don’t skip this. It gives the chicken a crust that the sauce clings to. Without it, the sauce just slips off the chicken. (PS The additional of parmesan here is a trick that makes this Chicken Piccata a standout!).
How to make Chicken Piccata
Chicken Piccata is a straight forward, pretty quick recipe:
Pound chicken so they cook evenly;
Dust with flour > pan sear until golden; and
Make sauce in same pan (takes 3 maybe 4 minutes).
Cut and pound chicken – Cut each chicken breast into 3 pieces. Then pound each piece until it is 1/2cm / 0.2″ thick. I use a meat mallet and place the chicken between baking/parchment paper, cling wrap or what is called “Go-Between” which is a freezer film used to keep food from sticking together in the freezer. It’s basically like freezer bags in roll form.
If using tenderloin, there is no need to cut, just pound each piece. If using thigh fillets, halve then pound;
Dust chicken – Drizzle chicken with oil, then coat with the flour and parmesan. Press the chicken into the mixture to make it stick. Shake off excess well.
See comment under the Ingredients above for why a flour-parmesan coating is essential here!
Pan fry chicken in butter and oil until golden, amount 3 minutes. Turn, then cook the other side for 1 minute until golden (I know that sounds odd, 3 minutes then 1 minute, but the 2nd side really does cook much faster than the 1st side!). Once cooked, remove from the pan;
Clean skillet – The skillet will be a bit dirty which will tarnish what is supposed to be a clean, clear sauce. So before we proceed, it’s best to clean the skillet. Pour out the excess fat from the pan, then give it a quick wipe with a paper towel. No need to be meticulous here;
Reduce wine – To make the sauce, add the white wine and simmer rapidly to reduce by half. In this step, the alcohol will cook out so you won’t have any boozy flavour in the sauce. Then add lemon and bring to a simmer;
Swirl in butter – Turn down heat to low, then add cubes of butter and swirl it to make it melt. This makes the butter emulsify with the wine and lemon juice to form a glossy, clear, slightly thickened sauce. The sauce would not thicken as well and it would split if you let the butter bubble and melt over high heat;
Capers & parsley – To finish the sauce, add in capers and parsley; and
Serve! Then serve the chicken pieces with the Lemon Butter Sauce. You’ll notice that there is not a ton of sauce. You don’t need loads, the sauce has enough flavour. From a practical perspective, the flour-parmesan crust of the chicken gets soaked with the sauce, and that’s all you need really, to enjoy this dish. (And regular readers know I’m a Sauce Girl!).
Serve this with your starchy side of choice and a side salad to get some greens on your plate. Choose from:
Some suggestions for you:
Enjoy! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Chicken Piccata (Lemon Chicken with Capers)
- 450g / 16oz chicken breast (2 large pieces), skinless boneless (Note 1)
- 4 tbsp flour (sub cornflour/cornstarch for GF)
- 2 1/2 tbsp parmesan , finely grated (Note 2)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp / 15g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp / 30g unsalted butter , cut into 1.5cm / 1/2″ cubes
- 2/3 cup dry white wine (Note 3)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice , fresh
- 3 tbsp capers in brine , drained (Note 4)
- 1 1/2 tsp parsley , finely chopped, plus more for garnish
Crispy Parmesan Chicken:
- Cut each breast into 3 pieces. Then place between 2 pieces of cling wrap or paper and pound to 1/2 cm / 0.2″ thickness.
- Drizzle chicken with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and spread with your fingers on both sides.
- Mix flour, parmesan, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Coat chicken, pressing to adhere, then shaking off excess.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Then add butter and let it melt.
- Place 3 pieces of chicken in the skillet. Cook 3 – 4 minutes until golden, then turn and cook the other side for 1 minute. Remove onto plate, repeat with remaining chicken.
Chicken Piccata Sauce:
- Pour out and discard excess fat in skillet, then give it a quick wipe with paper towels (no need to clean thoroughly).
- Still on medium high heat, add wine. Let it simmer rapidly until it reduces by half – around 3 minutes.
- Add lemon and simmer 1 minute.
- Reduce heat to low. Add cubed butter and swirl pan to make it melt but not go foamy. Sauce should be glossy, translucent and slightly thickened.
- Stir in capers and parsley. Serve chicken with Sauce, sprinkled with extra parsley if desired!
When life gives you lemons …
Life of Dozer
He’s so stinky, I should put him in for dry cleaning too!