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 pound 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. Our reasons for not pounding the poultry are shared below.
We serve this dish over various types of 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 the fettucini, rotini, etc., for heavy sauces.
Bo has three recipes that are similar in the way they are prepared and served, but that’s where the similarities end. The Chicken Marsala has a heavier sauce and a mild or strong Marsala wine taste, depending on the amount of Marsala used. The 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! The Chicken Piccata has a light, delicate, sauce.
How Much of What?
Previously, I gave no amount for the flour. For this recipe, I would say to use about 1/2 cup of flour, and I have added that amount to the ingredient list where 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 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 – amount dictated by the number of chicken breasts
- salt to taste
- garlic powder to taste
- 1 large, or 2 small lemons
- white wine – again dictated by the amount of sauce desired
- 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 shallow olive oil.
- Zest the lemon peel while the chicken is browning.
- Squeeze the lemons, set juice aside.
- After browning the chicken and setting it aside to rest, 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 beautiful smooth, & 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 eat 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 shallow olive oil only until it reaches a beautiful 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 that 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.
Making the Roux – Step 2
Turning That Roux Into a Sauce
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, you may need to rinse the capers in cold running water.
Into the Oven