With all the Italian Recipes out there there are some true classics. Chicken Piccata is one of them!
As I was surfing through the web I discovered this wonderful recipe from Giada Di Laurentiis. (adapted from Giada Di Laurentiis version of Chicken Piccata)
Many times recipes really don't explain the reason why and how or what you're supposed to be doing or looking for. The most important thing (as an all recipes) is to make sure that you have high quality ingredients.
Let's say for instance, with chicken breast you certainly could use frozen chicken and then thaw it out, that doesn't makes sense if you want to really create the freshest and best Chicken Picatta for yourself or your guests?
You have a few choices when working with chicken, you certainly could buy the already boneless skinless breasts of chicken that are convenient for you or you may want to try something a bit different next time.
Buy the whole fryer then bone the breast off the bird using a sharp boning knife. It's may take some skill and technique as well as buying some how to cookbooks for some images.
Sure, I get it, by this time you're saying, "Well, I don't think I want to go through all that trouble!
I feel perfectly confident with my grocery store and the chicken breast that is available to me." That's alright, but be sure to some day give it a shot.
If you reviewed Giada's recipe you'll notice that she has instructed to butterfly the chicken breast. The way that is done is by taking the chicken breast fillet on the cutting board placing your hand over the top of the fillet using a sharp knife slicing into the side and opening it up like the pages of the book.
Be very careful not to slice your hand. Most restaurants that I've worked in pounded the chicken breast. Cooks Illustrated does a great job demonstrating cooking techniques!
If you prefer you may pound your chicken breast thin. Taking the chicken breast placing it onto a piece of plastic wrap and place another piece of plastic wrap right on top of the chicken breast.
Proceed to pound the chicken breast with a tenderizing mallet from the center moving out to the edge be careful not pound too much or your chicken breast will shred and fall apart. This is great technique if you want to have a very large portion cooked very quickly.
It really depends on what type of bite you like from your chicken breast some people like a nice juicy chunk of chicken when they're eating and other people like that nice delicate scaloppine style.
Both have a different effect and different plate presentation. If you look at the image here you'll notice that this is a thicker breast of chicken which promises to be a little more juicier, caramelized brown on the exterior but will take a little bit longer for you to cook. The longer cook times will result in more caramelized chicken taste.
About Chicken Stock
A word about chicken stock; If you're not going to make chicken stock yourself then please be sure that you use a high-quality chicken stock if it is available at your grocers. I like using a Natural Chicken Stock or any other chicken stock that comes from an aseptic package not a can.
Some have MSG if you are opposed to that so read the lable. If you'd like to create your own chicken stock follow this link to the page where I have the recipe for turkey stock and substitute the turkey with chicken bones, wings, neck bones etc. to make your stock. Be sure to strain your stock, refrigerated and the de-fat the chicken stock before using it in this recipe. Remember you can freeze chicken stock in ice cube trays for quick use.
Olive Oil for cooking
Don't go crazy and use the most expensive olive oil you have for cooking it is a complete waste of money. Buy yourself a good quality extra virgin olive oil that is moderately priced with a flavor you love. The reason why you're combining the unsalted butter with extra virgin olive oil is because you want to have the flavor of butter as well as the high cooking temperature that the olive oil allows you to have.
This will give you a wonderful olive oil brown butter flavor in your Chicken Picatta! As far as the lemon juice be sure to use fresh lemon juice not a one and a plastic squeeze bottle, very important! You'll notice that I called out Italian parsley, yes it does make a difference! I find that curly parsley is bitter in flavor as opposed to Flat Italian parsley which is sweeter in taste and has a fresher aroma. I prefer it for all the recipes that I have here on Cook-Italian.com!
Finishing your sauce
With "a la minute"cooking \ sautéing there are several steps you need to consider.
1. Your pan is hot your oil is hot, in this instance your oil or mixture is hot so your cooking very quick preventing oil from absorbing into your food
2. Once the chicken is removed from the pan you are going to make your sauce which requires you to use a technique called "deglazing" this is where you're adding a liquid to the bottom of your sauté pan and removing those tiny brown bits that form while cooking which are "glazed" onto the saute pan. You are then "deglazing" them putting them back into the liquid creating a wonderful rich flavor! Here we are deglazing with chicken stock and fresh lemon juice.
3. We reduce the chicken stock and fresh lemon juice down with the capers; then we add cold unsalted butter on top of the liquid as it's reducing and swirl it around with your tongs or spoon. This procedure is called mounting with butter or as the French say "monte au beurre". as you reduce the sauce in the pan you'll notice it's starting to thicken, do not reduce it too much or the butter will break and you have a oily looking and tasting sauce.
I like to add for presentation and flavor a few thin slices of lemon into the sauté pan and place it on top of the Chicken Picatta. Do not put the lemon in to early or the lemon oil and rind will create a bitter sauce.
Once you master this recipe you will be able to create and enjoy other recipes that will be posted here in the future like Chicken Marsala and Chicken Saltimboca. Because Chicken Picatta is so light and flavorful, I would not serve it it with anything else but a fine pasta. I recommend you serve your Chicken Picatta with Cappellini tossed with the Lemon Picatta Sauce that you created. Here is the recipe.
Chicken Picatta (Recipe) print version
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half or a freshly boned chicken breast with skin removed pounded thin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, seasoned with sea salt and pepper
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (not the expensive type)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice( don't use the plastic lemon)
1/2 cup chicken stock(prefer homemade )
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed ( rinsing removes the pungent caper vinegar taste)
1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley, washed and chopped
Coat lightly your chicken breast in seasoned flour .
In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. This is to cook the first chicken breast.
When the butter and olive oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken breast and cook for 3 minutes. (shorter if it is pounded out thin)
When the chicken breast is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. (shorter if it is pounded out thin) Remove and transfer to plate.
Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. (You will need the additional fat to saute the remaining chicken.) Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.
Into the pan add the fresh lemon juice, chicken stock and rinsed capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning by tasting the broth, add additional salt and pepper as needed. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes (less if it pounded thin). Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour your sauce over your sauteed chicken breast and garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley an thin slices of lemon which were simmered in the sauce during the last few seconds of cooking. Reserve a bit of sauce to toss your fresh boiled cappelini pasta as an option. Give yourself a hand, you just made Chicken Picatta!