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Make a classic chicken piccata recipe and have dinner on the table in about 30 minutes — this is a low-stress, high-reward stovetop recipe that cooks in one skillet. Golden brown, pan-fried chicken breasts simmer in a bright, tangy pan sauce balanced with white wine, butter, chopped shallots, and of course, plenty of fresh lemon juice. Garnish the dish with capers and chopped parsley and serve with buttered herb orzo or olive-oil mashed potatoes.
I grew up enjoying a traditional piccata made with delicately sliced veal cutlets. They were served in a rich, but light-tasting buttery sauce laced with that juicy pop of lemon and white wine. These days, I use chicken because it’s a mild-tasting protein that pairs really well with the zingy sauce.
Main ingredients in chicken piccata
- Chicken breasts: The base of this dish are quick-cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into cutlets, a/k/a thinly cut “scaloppine.” They cook quickly and evenly without needing to be pounded. To cut down on prep time you can buy prepared chicken cutlets at the grocery store. Otherwise, try butterflying chicken breasts and prepping cutlets at home.
- Lemon: Please use freshly-squeezed lemon juice! You’ll need 1/4 cup of juice, from one or two juicy lemons.
- White wine: Adding a second layer of tangy acidity, I use white wine to deglaze the pan after pan-frying the floured chicken breasts. Choose a dry wine you enjoy sipping, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc.
- Shallots: They taste like onions, only better! You can definitely substitute with the same amount of white or yellow onion.
- Butter: A few pieces of thickly sliced butter melt into the pan as the chicken finishes cooking, melding with the reduced broth to make a velvety sauce.
- Chicken broth: Use your favorite homemade chicken broth, store-bought chicken stock or vegetable broth.
- Flour: For breading the chicken, you can use all-purpose flour or a gluten-free blend with good results.
- Capers: I use capers packed in vinegar, rinsed and drained well.
- Parsley: Curly or Italian chopped parsley for sprinkling over the finished dish.
How to make it
Lemon-Basted Chicken Piccata
- 4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 ½ pounds
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour, or a gluten-free all-purpose blend
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup (60 ml) dry white wine
- ½ cup finely chopped shallot, about 1 shallot
- 1 cup (240 ml) chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons (42 g) butter, sliced into large pieces
- 2 tablespoons jarred capers, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Holding a sharp chef's knife parallel to the cutting surface, slice each breast in half through the middle to make eight pieces. Season the chicken generously on both sides with about 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.
- Spread the flour on a large plate or pie dish. Dredge the chicken in the flour, patting off any excess. Discard the remaining flour.
- Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer (don't let it smoke), add the chicken breasts to the pan. Cook on one side until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Flip the chicken over and cook another minute. Remove the chicken to a plate with a pair of tongs or a spatula.
- Pour in the white wine and cook about 2 minutes, until it's almost completely evaporated. Stir in the shallots and cook until they're softened, 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or so, until the broth is reduced by half.
- Stir in the garlic, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste. Return the chicken to the pan, along with all the juices that have accumulated on the plate, and bring the sauce back to a lively simmer. Scatter the butter into the pan. Use a spoon to baste the chicken with the sauce and melting butter, cooking another 2-3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the capers and parsley over the chicken and serve.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- If your chicken breasts are heftier than 6 ounces each, you’ll only need two of them for four servings.
- If you need help learning how to butterfly the chicken breasts, check out my tutorial.
- If you’re doubling the recipe, brown the chicken in batches to avoid crowding the pan.
- The chicken can be made up to 3 days ahead. Reheat with the sauce in a covered skillet over medium-low heat until warmed through.