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Exploring Chicken Piccata: 7 Great Recipes

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Chicken piccata is an easy-to-fix dish with a tangy lemon-caper sauce

Chicken piccata is an easy-to-fix dish with a tangy lemon-caper sauce

What Is a "Piccata"?

What does "piccata" mean? Many people assume it's a derivative of piquant, a sharp, tangy flavor, a reference to the briny capers that give the dish its signature flavor. Actually, piccata is not the name of the dish—it's the method of preparing the food. Piccata means to "pound flat," and that's how the meat is prepared so that it cooks quickly.

Chicken piccata is an Italian dish, but you probably won't find it in Italy (unless you happen to find a restaurant that caters to American tastes). The piccata of Italia is made with veal.

The Story of Chicken Piccata

Between 1880 and 1924, more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States; more than two million arrived in the decade between 1900 and 1910. The driving issues driving this exodus were poverty and political hardship.

Of course, there were social and cultural adjustments to be made, including adapting treasured family recipes. Veal is one of Italy's most popular meats—scallopini, saltimbocca, ossobuco, parmigiana, piccata—all of these are made with veal, the fork-tender, delicate meat of a calf less than one-year-old. But when Italians came to the United States, veal was unavailable, so savvy cooks substituted lean chicken breasts. The traditional veal piccata became chicken piccata.

The Main Ingredients

  • Butter: For some of you, this might be a frightening word. Please don't be afraid; the chicken is heart-healthy, and you won't be using that much butter. Please use unsalted, especially since the capers come with a sizeable salty punch. Since you are using such a small amount, why not splurge and use European butter? It has so much more depth of flavor.
  • Chicken: As I mentioned above, in Italy veal was readily available and incredibly inexpensive. When Italian immigrants came to this country, they found that veal was a rarity and an expensive one at that. So, they adapted their recipe for piccata to use chicken. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cook as quickly as veal. Boneless thighs can be substituted; they take a few more minutes of cooking, but (in my humble opinion) they have more flavor and are not as likely to dry out if overcooked.
  • Capers: What are those little green things? They're the size of peas, but that's where the similarity ends. Capers are flower buds—the immature, unripened, green flower buds of the Capparis spinosa or Capparis inermis. They grow in Italy, Spain, and Morocco. They are picked, dried in the sun, and then cured in vinegar, wine, or salt-and-water brine.
Chicken piccata simmering in the saute pan

Chicken piccata simmering in the saute pan

Carb Diva's Chicken Piccata

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Flour, for dredging (see note below for explanation)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced

Instructions

  1. Butterfly each chicken breast and then cut each piece in half. (Don't know how to butterfly—or even what that means? Don't worry; there's an easy-peasy video below.)
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge with flour and shake off the excess. You don't know how to dredge? Go to "What is Dredging?" below.
  3. Place 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Melt over medium-high heat. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook the other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate.
  4. Melt 2 more tablespoons of butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in the same manner as described above. Remove your pan from the heat and place the chicken on the plate.
  5. In the same pan add the lemon juice, broth, and capers. Return to the stove and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Taste for seasoning.
  6. Return all chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a platter. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.
Dredging a boneless, skinless chicken breast

Dredging a boneless, skinless chicken breast

What Is Dredging?

Dredging means lightly coating a piece of food (in this case, a boneless, skinless chicken breast) with flour.

  • Do not dredge the chicken and let it sit—the flour will become sticky and pasty. Dredge only when you are ready to cook.
  • Do not allow a heavy coating of flour—gently pat the chicken pieces to remove the excess flour. You want a very light dusting of flour.
  • And please throw away the flour that does not adhere to the chicken. Do not return it to your container of flour.
Creamy Lemon Chicken Piccata

Creamy Lemon Chicken Piccata

Creamy Lemon Chicken Piccata

Creamy chicken piccata is very much like the original recipe, but with a dash of heavy cream. Be sure to have some noodles, rice, or steamed potatoes on the side to capture every drop of that luscious sauce.

Instant Pot Chicken Piccata

Instant Pot Chicken Piccata

Instant Pot Chicken Piccata

Here's a piccata for busy weeknights or if you are looking for a slimmed-down version. Instant pot chicken piccata uses no butter, heavy cream, or cheese. The rapid cooking infuses the chicken with maximum flavor, but without the guilty calories. From start to finish, it takes only 15 minutes!

Provencal Piccata Roast Chicken Thighs

Provencal Piccata Roast Chicken Thighs

Provencal Piccata Roast Chicken Thighs

This roast chicken dish is a fusion of French and Italian flavors. Our piccata flavors of garlic and lemon are enhanced with French Dijon mustard and a splash of cognac. Chicken thighs are the best-tasting part of the bird; they roast in the oven, becoming fall-apart tender but remaining moist. Provencal piccata roast chicken thighs takes just under an hour from start to finish.

Chicken Piccata Pasta

Chicken Piccata Pasta

Chicken Piccata Pasta

This meal makes six generous servings and is kid-friendly. Chicken piccata pasta marries the flavors of piccata with something all children love to eat—pasta. After cooking, the chicken is chopped into bite-sized pieces and mixed with the cooked pasta and simmer sauce. It's ready to eat in just 40 minutes.

Chicken Piccata Meatballs

Chicken Piccata Meatballs

Chicken Piccata Meatballs

Chicken piccata meatballs are a fun alternative to chicken cutlets. Tender, seared chicken meatballs roll around in a creamy, buttery lemon-garlic sauce speckled with capers and sprinkled with parsley to finish. The meatballs are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Vegan (Tofu) Un-Chicken Piccata

Vegan (Tofu) Un-Chicken Piccata

Vegan (Tofu) Un-Chicken Piccata

I have several dear friends (and an even more dear daughter) who are vegetarian or vegan. Whenever possible I find a compassionate version of the feature dish. This tofu un-chicken piccata looks amazing and has all of the signature flavors of our original dish. (And, the story that accompanies this recipe is incredibly touching.)

© 2021 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 18, 2021:

Hi Shauna. I'm glad you were able to resurrect your comments. I don't own an instant pot either, and I simply don't want to learn one more piece of equipment. I'm too OLD to change!

As for sides, when we had our chicken piccata last week I served brown rice and a green salad (with lots of extra fresh veggies) on the side. Our salads, especially in the summer, tend to be very little lettuce--mostly grated carrots, tomatoes, onions, olives, cucumbers, zucchini).

I have't made the meatballs yet, but that's on my list for the next week or so. Sauce with noodles, you betcha!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 18, 2021:

Rinita, I don't own an instant pot, so I look forward to hearing a report from you on this one. (I figured it was about time I let people see the real me. I'm not really a tabby cat).

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 18, 2021:

Okay. Here goes....

First, as always, I enjoyed reading the history of this dish. I also learned what capers actually are. I had no idea! There's always a jar of the salty little gems in my fridge.

Your recipe looks and sounds delish. I'll have to give it a go, although I don't think my son will eat it because of the capers. What side(s) did you serve with it?

The instant pot recipe really appeals to me due to the low calorie content. However, I don't own an instant pot or an air fryer for that matter. It seems so many recipes today use one or the other. It would be nice if they'd include instructions for those of us who still use old school methods in the kitchen.

The piccata meatballs look good too. They'd be great served over egg noodles, kinda Swedish meatball style. Sauce and noodles? Yes, please.

Shoot. Now I'm hungry! See what you done did, Sis? LOL

Rinita Sen on August 18, 2021:

I'm going to try the Insta Pot recipe. Looks easy and delicious. Oh, and I'm happy to see your face in your profile pic. :). Hope all is well.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 17, 2021:

Well golly Sis, I'm sure glad that this "commenting" thing is working so well, aren't you? (Insert huge sarcasm emoji here).

Wanna give that comment another try?

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 17, 2021:

Your article was still on HP when I left the comment. Perhaps it got swept over to the niche site just as I hit "submit comment" and it got lost in the swirl. I commented on Bill's mailbag in the same manner yesterday, but it never showed. Same scenario, I suspect.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 17, 2021:

Shauna, I don't know what to say. It simply is not there. Double bummer.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 17, 2021:

I left a comment yesterday, Linda, but don't see it. Bummer.

manatita44 from london on August 16, 2021:

Yes. Vegans can be extreme. Some have causes based on moral, social and environmental issues. We use eggs, milk and cheese and our approach to life, while holistic, is also much more practical and inclusive. I wish your daighter well.

The French are super-excellent at what they do and so are the Italians. I rather suspect they both have their strengths. Stay well and blessed.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 16, 2021:

Adrienne, languages are so complicated, right? I guess that's what happens when we borrow from each other. I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe.

Adrienne Farricelli on August 16, 2021:

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I too believed that the word piccata was used to describe a tangy flavor. Now I have learned it's the method of preparing the food by "pounding it flat".

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 16, 2021:

Denise, I can see how capers would work in a faux egg salad. They just have that certain pop of flavor. You made me laugh when you mentioned that you won't need to buy a new gadget this week.

Maybe next week?

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 16, 2021:

I love the tofu recipe and the story Rhea told with it. It was sweet. Another interesting backstory I never heard of before. At least I won't need a new kitchen gadget to try this recipe. I actually have capers in my cupboard. I bought them to put into a Chickpea "egg salad" recipe. They are interesting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 16, 2021:

Hi Peggy, I have not tried the meatball version yet, but it's definitely on my to-do list. Thanks for finding me.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 16, 2021:

We love preparing and eating chicken piccata. You have given us some nice alternative recipes, like meatballs, with the similar flavor profile. Thanks!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 16, 2021:

Manatita, it is so good to hear from you. My younger daughter tried to eat vegan--that lasted for about one year, and then she left home to go to the university. Eating (and shopping) on her own she discovered how restrictive and difficult it can be to find foods made without eggs, butter, honey, etc.

I could do without meat (if I simply HAD to), but please don't take away my eggs and cheese. Your dinner for 18 sounds delightful. So much joy and happiness in one place.

Are the Italians better cooks than the French? That sounds like a hot-button topic. I try to stay clear of controversy, so not sure if I'll take up the challenge.

manatita44 from london on August 16, 2021:

I see that you've given me an option, as usual, a vegan one. Sweet! I'm actually vegetarian and there's a significant difference, but we do merge, from time to time. Lovely write and nice colours. Do you think the Italians are better culinary experts than the French? Maybe you can write a piece about that.

I ate food in the French countryside, in Cruz la Ville, about 50 K from Clemecy, and it was like heaven! So natural and delectable! Delicioso! Yet in Heidelberg the Italian food there is amazing! The world expert is Spanish, though.

Friday night I had an avocado Bruccatta (starter), A Napoli with extra olives and a Tiramisu dessert. It was an an Italian Restaurant in Chelsea, London, at a table for 18 people, including three birthday souls. I kiss my hands to heaven! Ha-ha. Much Love!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 15, 2021:

Misbah, this has been (for me) a wonderful day, and then I receive a loving message from you. Now it's a "wonderfuller" day. My love to you. So thankful that you and your family are back to good health.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 15, 2021:

John, that makes me a happy Carb Diva. By the way, my husband says that he doesn't like capers, but he had a second helping when I cooked this last week LOL.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 15, 2021:

Winner winner, chicken dinner! I have never tried piccata with veal or chicken, but I certainly will now. Every one of those versions looks delicious.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on August 15, 2021:

I always appreciate your efforts, Linda. I really enjoyed reading everything you've written. I think I must try Carb Diva's Chicken Piccata someday. It sounds delicious and unique. I also liked the

Provencal Piccata Roast Chicken Thighs. Thanks a lot for sharing it with us. Much Love, dear friend

God bless you always. Amen!

Love and hugs!!

David Mus on August 15, 2021:

I like your idea. Too much added salt is definitely not healthy. It can particularly present a problem for people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and hypertension.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 15, 2021:

David Mus you are so right. Lemon and bright herbs can replace much of the salt we put on our foods.

David Mus on August 15, 2021:

It looks scrumptious. The various herbs definitely add to great flavor and make your chicken piccata healthful.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 15, 2021:

Thank you Louise. I hope you enjoy it

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on August 15, 2021:

I'm saving this recipe, it sounds lovely, thankyou. :)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 15, 2021:

And Bill, you are a yes for me. Thanks my friend. I'm looking forward to those cooler days, but they are also getting shorter. (Insert sad face here).

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 15, 2021:

Don, it IS an easy dish, and as you said, very light and satisfying on those hot summer nights (I think in the Pacific NW we're having your weather this summer). Thanks for stopping by.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 15, 2021:

Chicken is a yes for me. This recipe is a yes for me. The writer of this article is a yes for me. All in all, I would call this a success. :) Happy Cooler Sunday, my friend.

Don Bobbitt from Ruskin Florida on August 15, 2021:

Love the Chicken picatta that my wife makes. She calls it a simple dish, and she can whip it up very quickly. We will often make it on a hot southern evening and we can enjoy it without our trying to go through some multi-level process. you just bread the chicken and then you throw it onto the fire for a few minutes and Voila!

DON

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 15, 2021:

Thank you Pamela. You always have a kind word to say. We had the original chicken piccata just last week and that inspired me to write this article. It's a satisfying dish that doesn't feel heavy, and I like that when the weather is so hot.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 15, 2021:

I also have rarely eaten veal, and not in recent years at all. The chicken piccata will work for me. This looks delicious and not difficult to make. I use Irish butter for some foods, and it is good.

I always enjoy the bit of history you put in your articles, Linda. It makes them even more interesting. This is another excellent article with so many ways to flavor this dish. Thanks for this new information.

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