Lemon Chicken Piccata is such a popular main dish and it’s easy to see why. The flavors are so bright and fresh with a beautiful presentation that makes it company-worthy. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy and almost fool-proof, even the most novice home cook can turn out a palatable version. But this version is more than just palatable. It’s simply delicious.
The headliners in this recipe are fresh lemons with their juices, creamy butter, briny nonpareil (small) capers and a touch of garlic.
Starting with fresh lemon slices, these should be sliced very thin so they can quickly become softened when cooking because you’ll want to eat them, skin and all.
Tiny capers; what a peculiarity these squeeky little poppers are… capers are unopened flower buds from a Mediterranean shrub and they have a clean, almost pickle-y flavor that works well in so many Italian dishes. “Nonpareils” as you’ll see them labeled most often, just means they are the smallest version of buds. Larger capers are called grusas. These are twice the size and are a little too powerful in this recipe.
Also important in this recipe is the type of chicken used in the dish. The recipe I’m sharing with you comes from American’s Test Kitchen and they rightly recommend buying whole chicken breasts, cutting off the tenderloin piece, slicing the chicken horizontally and pounding to your desired thickness (or thinness in this instance). The trouble with pre-trimmed cutlets is, many pieces in the package are nothing more than ragged slivers of chicken that are too thin for the dish and will cook too quickly. So, buy some high quality chicken breasts, slice and pound them to the perfect, uniform thickness that will make the recipe a true success. This is the step that takes up the most time, but if you have a sharp knife and a meat pounder/tenderizer, you’ll breeze right through.
Chicken pieces that you’ve trimmed to an even thickness will be uniformly prefect throughout. And since they’re thinner than whole chicken breasts, they finish up in just a few minutes.
Some piccata sauce recipes call for adding flour to thicken the sauce. Don’t do it! Adding flour as a thickener will take away from the freshness of the lemon juice and then it’s not LEMON Chicken Picatta. Adding butter at the end of the sauce reduction will thicken the sauce just right and the butter will bring all the flavors of the lemons, capers and garlic together for the best, fresh sauce.
Fresh parsley gets added at the very end which adds a nice color and just the right amount of bitter flavor. The thin lemon slices are tart and delicious! I wanted a little lemon with every bite.
So simple, Lemon Chicken Piccata done right is fresh and satisfying without being too heavy or filling. Healthy ingredients make it a perfect fit for any dietary requirement you may have. Serve it with green vegetables or over linguine or other favorite pasta. And by the way, leftovers are delightful the following day. If you have leftovers, the lemony chicken works great in a caesar salad.
- 2 lemons
- 4 (6- to 8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloins removed, trimmed
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive or avocado oil, divided
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 3 tablespoons butter, cut into 3 pieces and chilled
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- Cut 1 lemon in half lengthwise. Trim ends from 1 of the halves and slice crosswise ⅛ to ¼ thick; set aside. Squeeze juice from the other whole lemon and the remaining half lemon into small bowl. You should have about ¼ cup juice. Set aside.
- Adjust your oven rack to middle position and heat to 200 degrees. Have each chicken breast horizontally, then cover cutlets with plastic wrap and pound to an even ¼-inch thickness (or close) with meat pounder. Spread flour in a shallow plate or dish.
- Season cutlets with salt and pepper. Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge in flour, shaking off excess, and transfer to a large platter.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place 3-4 cutlets in the skillet, depending on how many fit without overcrowding, and cook until golden brown on first side, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip cutlets, reduce heat to medium, and cool until no longer pink and lightly browned on second side, about 2 minutes longer; transfer to large ovensafe platter or dish. Repeat with remaining cutlets, adding 2 tablespoons more with each addition. Tent the chicken loosely with aluminum foil and transfer to oven to keep warm while making sauce.
- Add garlic to now-empty skillet and cook over medium heat about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and lemon slices, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to simmer and cook until reduced to ⅓ cup, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in capers and lemon juice, bring to simmer, and cook until reduced to ⅓ cup again, about 1 minute. Turn off heat, whisk in butter, 1 piece at a time. Stir in parsley. Pour sauce over chicken and serve immediately.