Chicken Piccata

In these trying times of quarantine, work-from-home, and statewide lockdowns, most of us are eating at home 7 days a week.  Each takeout or delivery is an added risk; so, at our house that’s a once-a-week treat.

Here’s a classic Italian dish that can be made in almost the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta.  It’s simple, with honest, bright flavors.

The key to success with this recipe is laying everything out ahead of time.  The process goes fast once you start!

Ingredients (for 4 servings)

  • 2 whole Chicken Breast, boneless, skinless
  • Olive oil
  • butter
  • flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock or white wine
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbs capers
  • fresh parsley
  • optional:  raw spinach for platter

Beating Your Breasts

While it seems a pain to pound the chicken out flat, it is really quite easy and makes a huge difference.  The idea behind it is that you want the chicken to be the same thickness throughout so that it cooks evenly.

The easiest way is to first make a horizontal slice, holding your hand, palm down (and fingers straight out!) over the chicken breast, and the knife parallel with the cutting board.  Cut the chicken breast from thick end through the thin end leaving you with two equal sized halves, one on top of the other.

Now put one of the pieces in a large ziplock bag (not sealed) and use a skillet as a mallet, smacking the chicken with the bottom of the pan until the whole piece is the same thickness.  Repeat with the others.  (The plastic is to prevent spraying raw chicken around your kitchen.  It’s not Coronavirus but it’s still gross and potentially dangerous)

Season some flour with a generous amount of salt and pepper, and mix well.  Now pour it out on a flat plate.  Drag the thin pounded chicken breasts through it so they have a thin coating of seasoned flour on each side.

Turn your oven to either a “warm” setting or 200º and put a shallow pan in there.  This will be to keep the chicken warm as it comes off the stove.

Now heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a skillet on medium high.  The oil enables the butter to get hotter without burning, and the butter is, well, butter!

When the oil/butter mixture has stopped foaming add a couple of the floured chicken cutlets.  You want them to fill the pan without excessive crowding.  Better to use a bigger pan (and more butter and oil) or do multiple batches.  The flour on the chicken will brown (don’t let it blacken!) and seal in chicken juices.

If the chicken has been pounded out thin, it should only take 2-3 minutes per side.  The time in the warm oven will cook it a bit more too.  To test, take a knife and fork and cut into one of them.  You’ll be able to tell if it’s still a bit pink or not.

As the pieces cook, put them into the warm pan in the oven and add another Tbs of oil and another of butter (this is not time to cut calories!). Do 2 more this way until they are all cooked.  If the flour begins to scorch and the pan begins to smoke, pull the pan off the heat, and cut back the heat to med-high.

When the last piece is in the oven, add one some chicken stock, or white wine and, using a wooden scraper, loosen all the cooked bits from the floor of the pan.  You want just enough to cover the floor of the pan.   You want only enough sauce for the chicken you cooked, any extra is wasted flavor.  Turn the heat to med-low.

Now squeeze half a lemon into a bowl or glass so you can then remove the seeds.  Then pour the lemon juice in the pan.  Mix the lemon juice in and add one more slice of butter (about what you’d put on a piece of toast.)

Add a tablespoon of capers, and taste the sauce.  Need salt?  Add some.  Too lemony?  Add a bit more butter.  Too much sauce?  Turn it to simmer and reduce it a bit.

Put the chicken pieces on a platter.  I like to put it on a bed of raw spinach.  The hot chicken will wilt the spinach and it will absorb some of the sauce.  Pour any accumulated juices from the chicken into your sauce and drizzle the sauce over the chicken.

Top with parsley and serve with pasta…which should be just about ready!




  1. Hi, Tony, Thanks so much for posting recipes again! I can’t wait to try this one.
    Yes, it’s been quite a while in quarantine so i’m actually thinking about cooking!

  2. Tried it — loved it. Will make this one again. took a picture, but can’t figure out how to post…

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