Classic Chicken Piccata in its Awe-Inspiring Greatness

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Another week-night go-to, this time of the classic variety: chicken piccata.  A dish I have seen made so many times on various cooking shows that I managed to absorb it, a culmination of the recipes mapping themselves out in my mind.  I didn’t follow one specific outline for my adaptation, rather I went off of memory and instinct, my favorite kind of cooking.

To me, the backbone of this dish lies in the sauce, a concentrated mix of lemon, white wine, chicken stock and capers, blended and boiled down until rich and smooth.  Further notes of lemon, offered by fresh thyme, add an earthy depth of flavor to the sauce and a pinch of red pepper flakes carries warmth throughout every bite.

Oh and there’s garlic… foodie-girl would never forget the garlic.  Served over rice/pasta/couscous/potatoes and garnished with fresh herbs and you have a complete meal that looks as impressive as it tastes.  And if you work off of my pantry standards list, the ingredients will be at the ready, making dinner for one, two, three or more a relaxing and enjoyable weeknight affair!

I always like to prep all elements of a meal before I begin the cooking process.  It makes the entire experience easier and more enjoyable.  I have what I need at a hands reach, the stress of being four steps into a seven step process and not having chopped my onion removed.  It’s already waiting on my cutting board, ready to go.  That said, to begin, prep the following: one third cup minced shallots, one tbs minced garlic, one tsp minced fresh thyme and the zest of one lemon (save that lemon – we’ll need the juice in just a bit).

On to the chicken!  As mentioned before, the easiest way to no-fail-always-juicy chicken breasts, is to pound them to an even thickness, as demonstrated in my recipe for parmesan crusted chicken breasts.

After the chicken breasts have been throughly pounded with a rolling pin or skillet, season them liberally with salt and black pepper and give them a light flour dredge.  It helps create a delicate crust and leaves behind a small amount in the pan, a nice little addition to the sauce we will later construct.

Warm one tbs butter and one tbs olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and sear for three minutes per side.  If your chicken is more than one inch thick, add a bit more time – three and a half to four minutes per side.  When finished, remove to a plate and tent with foil, allowing to rest for ten minutes.

Now for the sauce!  Lower the heat to medium-low and add the shallots.  Saute for three minutes until tender and translucent.  Next into the pan goes one quarter tsp red pepper flakes and the thyme.  Warm for two minutes and add the garlic, cooking for thirty seconds until fragrant.  Time for wine!  Pour one half of a cup of dry white wine, such as pinot grigio, into the pan and turn the flame to medium, bringing the wine to a simmer.  Make sure to scrape your spoon along the bottom of the pan, breaking up any bits of flavor left behind so they can dissolve into the sauce.  Let the wine reduce for three to five minutes.

Once the wine has reduced by half, add one cup of chicken stock and the lemon zest, along with the juice of the lemon.  Stir and bring back to a simmer so the sauce can continue to reduce and the flavors can concentrate.

Capers.  Briny little jewels that are, in my mind, what make chicken piccata, chicken piccata.  Add three tbs of drained capers and stir.  Season the sauce to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  The capers are salty, but you do need a little salt to bring out the flavors.  I started with one quarter of a tsp and ended up using one half tsp total.  Once the sauce has reduced by half, add one tbs of unsalted butter to bring the sauce together and add a tiny bit of creaminess.

Turn the heat to medium-low and add the chicken breasts along with any collected juices back to the pan.  Plate over rice/pasta/couscous/mashed potatoes and top with the sauce.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Serves Two

  • one third cup minced shallots
  • one tbs minced garlic
  • one tsp minced fresh thyme
  • one quarter tsp red pepper flakes
  • the zest and juice of one lemon
  • two chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season the chicken
  • flour for dredging
  • one tbs unsalted butter
  • one tbs olive oil
  • one half cup dry white wine
  • one cup unsalted chicken stock
  • three tbs capers, drained
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • one tbs unsalted butter to finish the sauce
  • one tbs freshly parsley, minced
To begin, assemble the shallots, garlic, thyme and the zest of one lemon (save that lemon – we’ll need the juice in just a bit).
Rinse the chicken breasts and pat them dry.  Pound the chicken to an even thickness, season them liberally with salt and black pepper and give them a light flour dredge. Warm one tbs butter and one tbs olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and sear for three minutes per side.  If your chicken is more than one inch thick, add a bit more time – three and a half to four minutes per side.  When finished, remove to a plate and tent with foil, allowing to rest for ten minutes.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add the shallots.  Saute for three minutes until tender and translucent.  Next into the pan goes one quarter tsp red pepper flakes and the thyme.  Warm for two minutes and add the garlic, cooking for thirty seconds until fragrant.  Time for wine!
Pour one half of a cup of dry white wine, such as pinot grigio, into the pan and turn the flame to medium, bringing the wine to a simmer.  Make sure to scrape your spoon along the bottom of the pan, breaking up any bits of flavor left behind so they can dissolve into the sauce.  Let the wine reduce for three to five minutes.
Once the wine has reduced by half, add one cup of chicken stock and the lemon zest, along with the juice of the lemon.  Stir and bring back to a simmer so the sauce can continue to reduce and the flavors can concentrate.  Add three tbs of drained capers and stir.  Season the sauce to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The capers are salty, but you do need a little salt to bring out the flavors.  I started with one quarter of a tsp and ended up using one half tsp total.  Once the sauce has reduced by half, add one tbs of unsalted butter to bring the sauce together and add a tiny bit of creaminess.  Turn the heat to medium-low and add the chicken breasts along with any collected juices back to the pan.  Plate over rice/pasta/couscous/mashed potatoes and top with the sauce.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.
Lindsey McClave
Lindsey McClave has a deep love for food, wine and travel. While she has no intentions of becoming a chef or a sommelier and doesn't consider herself an expert in any culinary area, she is obsessed with learning.

She says, "the one thing I've taken away from my wine travels is that wine is meant for everyone - rich, poor, and everywhere in-between.” Whatever cooking becomes to you, she encourages you to find that foodie place, embrace it and run with it.
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