Perfect Piccata

When someone finds out that I love to cook they always ask me to name my signature or best dish.

After a lot of meal making and surveying from my partner in cuisine crime, I’d have to say the answer is chicken piccata.

Piccata can refer to the cut of meat (thin) or a dish consisting of thin cuts of meat, coated, sautéed and topped with a lemon butter sauce.

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Here’s what you need to make mine:

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp. garlic powder
4 lemons
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 Tbsp. capers
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 tsp. corn starch
3 tsp. water
Salt & pepper

Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise. To do this, put the breast flat on a cutting board and put your palm onto it. Using a sharp knife, slice through the middle of the breast. This method protects your hand while keeping the meat from moving.

Remove all the gunk and red spots from the halved breasts.

Place each half between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound it thin. If you don’t have a meat mallet use the bottom of a frying pan. The breast will spread out. It should end up being a little less than 1/4 inch thick.

On a big plate, combine the flour, garlic powder, and big pinches of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Into a big measuring cup or bowl, zest 3 of the lemons, and juice all of them. This should give you about 3/4 cup juice.

Add the broth to the container of zest and juice. Stir. Add the capers. Stir.

Dredge the chicken cutlets in the flour mix.

Put a large pan over medium-high heat, and add one Tbsp of butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil. When the butter melts, swirl it around the pan.

Working in batches, brown the chicken on both sides until brown. About 3 minutes per side. If the pan gets dry between batches, add another drizzle of olive oil.

Remove the chicken and set the cutlets on a plate.

Add the garlic to the hot pan and stir. As soon as you get the aroma of the garlic, pour the zest/juice/broth mixture into the pan. It’ll steam and sizzle. Immediately begin scraping all the browned bits (from the chicken) off the pan. That’s pure flavor!

Let the mixture boil for about 4 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the cornstarch and water in a small dish to form a paste. Whisk it into the sauce and let it boil while you whisk. It’ll thicken after just a couple of minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Whisk it into the sauce. This will make it glossy and smooth.

Throw in a few pinches of salt and grinds of black pepper. If you use regularly salted broth or salted butter go a bit easier on the salt.

Taste the sauce. Add more salt if needed.

Then dump the chicken (an any juices on the plate) into the pan. Make sure to coat the chicken in the sauce.

Let it go for about 5 minutes to cook the chicken all the way through.

Put a cutlet onto a pillow of pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, or penne all work well), then pour on the sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

The chicken is tender. The sauce is just under the tartness level that makes your mouth cramp up. The briny, salty capers are a must. They elevate the acidity.

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Each bite is perfectly balanced with the shock of lemon and the creaminess of the pasta.

I’m warning you. You’ll want a wedge of crusty bread to soak up what’s left.

Some things you should know:
-You can make this healthier by skipping the flour, just season the flattened chicken and brown it. Keep in mind, the flour plays two key roles. It helps the sauce cling to the chicken, and it helps thicken the sauce.
-If you don’t have cornstarch, skip that step. The flour will thicken the sauce a tad when you put the chicken back into the pan.
-This is very lemony. If you want to cut some of the zing, just zest one of the lemons.
-Piccata is usually high on fat. I cut back and used a fraction of the butter you’d find in a restaurant’s version. If you like it more luscious, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter at the end.

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Tip: Swap out the pasta for steamed asparagus or roasted green beans. They’ll both cut the acidity, while pairing perfectly with the citrus. This is a great way to indulge without feeling completely guilty. And yes, I know, the comfort of Italian food erases all guilt.

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