This is, hands down, Little Miss 6-year-old’s favorite meal. She asks me to make this weekly and has multiple helpings when I do. It is tart and lemony with undertones of garlic and onion. In fact, last night she told me she loved the garlic and onions and wanted lots on her plate. However, Charlotte’s absolute favorite part of the dish are the capers. You have to have capers (and choose the smaller capers for this…those big guys will be overpowering). Who would’ve thunk a little kid would like the briney taste of capers, but she does. Her plate always gets the most of these pretty ‘lil pickled flower buds.
Traditional chicken piccata can be kind of heavy with a lot of butter and oil. My version is a tad healthier because I only use one tablespoon of butter and olive oil. A lot of recipes also bread the chicken with flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, which gives it a heaviness that I avoid in my version. Instead of all the breading, I lightly coat the chicken in seasoned flour and brown it up — the flour helps to thicken the sauce as the chicken breast braises in the liquid, but it isn’t clunky like other recipes I’ve tried.
Using a good quality pasta with this makes all the difference, too. You want pasta with some tooth to it — I like De Cecco spaghetti as a good dried pasta brand. It is thicker than most brands (and a little pricier, but worth it) and has a fresh pasta taste and feel to it.
The key to making this dish, more than any other, is having thin chicken breasts. If you want to use a mallet and pound your chicken breasts, more power to you. When I do this, I find that my chicken becomes a little rubbery. Instead I buy the pre-cut thin sliced chicken breasts from the grocery. They work perfectly for this dish. They are almost cooked completely before you set them to braise in the lemon–garlic-caper sauce, then they become super tender. So delicious!
So, you want to make this for your family, too? Here is what you need:
4 – 5 thin sliced chicken breasts
1/3 Cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp salt and a good dose of black pepper)
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1/3 Cup of lemon juice (use fresh…not the stuff from a yellow bottle), about 1 1/2 lemons
1 Cup chicken stock
1/2 Cup dry white wine like Chardonnay
1/2 Cup of diced yellow onion (about 1/2 a medium onion)
1 clove of garlic sliced thin (see photo)
1-2 Tbs small capers with some of the brine
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
Heat a large pan (I can’t live without my 3 qt saute pan — it is used daily) over medium high heat and add your butter and oil. While waiting for your butter to melt, coat your chicken in your seasoned flour. Once your butter starts sizzling and turning golden, add your chicken to the pan.
Fry your chicken breasts for about 2-3 minutes on both sides, then remove them from the pan. Add your onion to the remaining oil in the pan. If you feel there isn’t enough oil in the pan, you can always add a little more at this point.
Turn your pan down to medium heat and saute your onion until it starts to become translucent (about 4-5 minutes). Then add your sliced garlic and saute another minute just until the garlic becomes fragrant. You don’t want to burn it.
Deglaze the pan with your white wine, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. After a couple of minutes, add your chicken stock, lemon juice and capers. Bring the sauce to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add your chicken back into the pan and let simmer for 20 minutes. Make sure you pour all the juices back into your pan from your chicken while it was resting — hello, flavor!
While your chicken and sauce is simmering, start a big stock pot of boiling, salted water. Cook your pasta according to the package’s directions. Once it is al dente, drain and add your pasta to the pan with your chicken and sauce. Get your pasta nice and coated, then pour your pasta, chicken, and sauce into a serving dish. If you have some fresh parsley or basil, feel free to garnish and give your dish a little fresh green color.