This is pure comfort food for me.
Chicken Piccata was a standard in our household when I was growing up. Although for a while it was referred to Tonkatsu Chicken as my brothers and I preferred to dip our chicken in Tonkatsu sauce (basically a Japanese Worcestershire sauce) rather than squeezing fresh lemon over the top.
I digress. This is such a simple dish…and very easy to make on a weeknight as well. Although I don’t have a crowd to feed…it was always a crowd-pleaser. The chicken breasts I used were humongous…I probably should have cut each one in half once I had pounded them and saved half of the meat for another meal. But it did make for some great leftovers, so I can’t complain.
2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 cup flour
1-2 cups of breadcrumbs (panko or regular)
2 lemons (1 sliced and 1 juiced with seeds removed)
1-2 tbsp. capers
1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
2-4 tbsp. of butter
½ cup of white wine
First, place 1 chicken breast in a gallon size ziplock bag and using a meat pounder or rolling-pin, pound each breast until it is about ¼ to ½ inch thick. This helps tenderize the meat and will help it to cook evenly and much faster. Next, open a bottle of wine…pour yourself a glass and leave some to help deglaze the pan.
Next, ready your breading set-up. Shallow bowls or plates with a lip on them, or even cake pans can work really well for this.
I was gifted these a few years ago and LOVE them. They link together so you avoid the drippy egg all over the counter and they help maximize your workspace as they fit together tightly unlike round plates or bowls would. When breading, remember wet sticks to dry and dry sticks to wet. So start with the flour, the next pan should have the eggs lightly beaten and the last pan is for the breadcrumbs and don’t forget to season at each step. I heavily season the chicken breast before the flour dredge and I usually season the egg with salt and pepper as well.
Next, put your pan on the heat and add some olive oil and a pat of butter…the oil has a higher smoke point and the butter helps things to brown nicely. Once the pan is hot, gently lay the first chicken breast down. I turn the heat up a bit at this point because as soon as you add your chicken, the pan will cool quite a bit. If there’s room (don’t crowd the pan), add in the second chicken breast. I turn the oven on warm (150-180º F) so I’ve got a warm place to hold the chicken while I make the sauce.
Turn the chicken breasts once the bottom side is browned handling them gently as you want to breading to stay on the chicken. Remove the chicken from the pan once it is cooked through and the second side is browned as well – place on a plate in the oven.
Now it’s time for the sauce. If there is a ton of oil in the pan, run a paper towel around to remove some of it without wiping up the little brown bits. Next, throw in half of your lemon slices and some of the capers, and cook a bit as you want them to break down. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the white wine to deglaze the pan and use a wooden spoon to get all the delicious browned bits up and incorporated into the sauce. Add in the juice from 1 lemon, a dash of salt and pepper let all the liquids combine. Before two much of the sauce has evaporated, add small and very cold chunks of butter to the pan and stir them in completely before adding the next chunk. This is called mounting the sauce with butter. The cold butter emulsifies and thickens the sauce. Just before serving add in the rest of the capers, another few slices of lemon and the chopped parsley. Plate the chicken, top with lemon and drizzle the sauce over and serve it with rice.