Chicken Piccata is a wonderful dish when you want something easy to make but elegant and extremely rich. The chicken is delicious and so tender you can cut it with a fork, but can we talk about the sauce? OH MY WORD! This lemon, butter, caper sauce is pure velvet. The bright tang of the lemons with the briny capers and rich butter just makes this sauce shine! This is truly a recipe where the butter is the star, so don’t skimp on the butter. Trust me, go for the PLUGRA butter and you won’t regret it. The quality is superior. Period. And I’m not paid to say this, I truly love this butter since my uncle introduced me to it over 20 years ago.
Did you know Piccata is a method of cooking and not the name of this dish? Merriam-Webster defines Piccata as thin slices of meat (such as veal) that are dredged in flour, sautéed, and served in a lemon and butter sauce. So where does Chicken Piccata come from? My research indicates this dish was created by Italian immigrants in New York around the 1930s making it an Italian-American dish. Obviously there’s a dish in Italy that inspired immigrants to recreate it with chicken, a more affordable meat, but no one seems to remember where in Italy this may have its origins. In Italy, this dish would have been made with veal and served as a second course (secondo) after the pasta. Here we serve it with pasta, polenta, another side and on its own.
Chicken Piccata v. Chicken Francaise/Francese (a.k.a. Chicken French)
Both are very similar and the differences are slight. Both dishes are made with thin meat, dredged, sautéed and cooked in a buttery lemon sauce. Both were created by Italian immigrants in New York. Piccata is dredged only in flour while Francaise is dredged in flour and an egg wash. Piccata adds capers to the lemon butter sauce, but Francaise does not. So it comes down to do you love capers? If yes, make the Piccata! The briny flavor is wonderful.
Full Disclosure: This Chicken Piccata has more butter and lemon than other recipes because I’m going for bold, rich flavors and luxurious results! It’s not an every day dish, but what a treat! I also doubled the sauce to coat 3/4 of a box of linguine pasta. If you’re not making the linguine, halve the sauce.
Butterfly two chicken breasts and cut through to separate them. Cover with plastic wrap and pound them about 1/4 inch thick with a mallet. Pat dry both sides with paper towels and season with kosher salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in all-purpose flour and shake off any excess flour that doesn’t stick to the chicken. Set aside on a plate. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a generous three-finger pinch of kosher salt and some oil (once around the pot) and stir. While the pasta water comes to a boil, measure out all the other ingredients. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook al dente. You want the pasta to have some bite since it will continue to cook in the sauce.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter with 2 Tablespoons of good olive oil. Swirl the pan around to blend the two fats. Peel and smash 2 large garlic cloves and add it to the pan. You want to infuse the butter and oil with garlic. No need to mince it, you’ll remove it later. When the butter and oil begins to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken to the pan. Remove the garlic cloves when they begin to brown. Sauté the chicken undisturbed for 3-4 minutes or until browned. It’s important to get color on them before you flip them and cook the other side for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove and transfer to a plate. Add 1 Tablespoon each of unsalted butter and olive oil to the pan and sauté the remaining chicken pieces. Once golden in color, remove and transfer to the plate with the chicken.
Make a roux by adding 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 Tablespoons of all-purpose butter to the skillet. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Add 2/3 cup of lemon juice, 1 cup chicken stock and 1/3 cup of capers (drained and rinsed). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. These brown bits add so much flavor to the sauce. Taste the sauce for seasoning, but it should be fine unless you are using unsalted chicken stock.
Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for five minutes. The sauce will begin to thicken and the chicken will become fork tender! Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and whisk until the sauce glistens. Reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet along with the remaining parsley. Toss and coat the pasta evenly.
Transfer the pasta to a serving platter and nestle the chicken over the pasta. Pour the reserved 1/4 cup of sauce over the chicken and garnish with extra parsley and lemon slices. I didn’t have any lemons left, but I would have added a few slices. If your family likes Parmesan cheese over their pasta, it would be a great topping. What a buttery and flavorful dinner! Serve with a side salad, crusty bread and good wine!
This recipe was adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.
Chicken Piccata with Linguine
A Classic American-Italian dish. Chicken Piccata is fork tender with a buttery and lemony caper sauce that is so rich and velvety.
- 12 oz linguine pasta ¾ of a 1 lb. box
- water for pasta
- kosher salt and olive oil for pasta
- 2 skinless & boneless chicken breasts
- kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
- fresh ground black pepper
- all-purpose flour for dredging plus 2 Tablespoons for the sauce
- 7 Tablespoons room temperature, unsalted butter, divided highly recommend PLUGRA butter
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ⅔ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ⅓ cup capers, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Garnish: parsley and lemon slices
- Optional: freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the Pasta
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a three-finger pinch of salt and drizzle a little olive oil into the pot. Cook the pasta al dente. Remove and drain well.
Making the Chicken Piccata
Butterfly the chicken breasts completely through to separate the breasts in half. Cover with plastic wrap and pound to 1/4 inch thick. Pat dry both sides with paper towels and season with kosher salt and pepper. Dredge in all-purpose flour and shake off any excess. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt and combine 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter with 2 Tablespoons of good olive oil. Add the smashed garlic cloves to infuse the oil and remove once golden. When the butter and oil begins to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and sauté undisturbed for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Flip and sauté the other side for 3 minutes or until golden. Remove and transfer to a plate.
Add 1 Tablespoon each of unsalted butter and olive oil to the pan and sauté the remaining two pieces of chicken 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove and transfer to the plate.
Make a roux by adding 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 Tablespoons of all-purpose butter to the skillet. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the lemon juice, chicken stock and capers. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat and scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet.
Return the chicken to the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat. Then transfer the chicken to a plate.
Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter to the skillet and whisk until the butter melts and the sauce shines. Reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce. Add the drained pasta and parsley to the sauce. Toss and coat evenly.
Transfer the pasta to a platter, nestle the chicken on the pasta and pour the reserved sauce over the chicken. Garnish with parsley and lemon slices.
Optional: Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over each plated dish, as desired.
This recipe makes double the sauce since it is served with pasta. If making just the chicken cutlets, halve the sauce ingredients.
Using quality butter, fresh lemons and briny capers will make a huge difference.
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.