Monday, March 26, 2012

Chicken Piccata

Chicken piccata is a simple Italian dish, consisting of sautéed chicken cutlets with a lemon-caper sauce.  The flavors are clean and bright.  It doesn’t have garlic in it, or anything spicy, and it frankly doesn’t need it.  Some people like to add butter to the sauce at the end, but I don’t think it’s necessary.  There is plenty of olive oil, which adds richness. 
First, chicken cutlets are dredged in flour and browned in a sauté pan.  Don’t be shy here: make sure you get some good color on the chicken.  When all of the chicken has been effectively browned, the chicken is set aside; chicken stock, lemon juice, and capers are added to the pan.  Do not add salt; the capers will add more than enough saltiness.  Bring the sauce to a boil, and scrape up any browned bits left behind in the pan from the chicken.  Then all of the chicken is added back to the pan and simmered in the golden sauce.  The flour in the chicken’s crust will thicken the sauce and the chicken will finish cooking gently in the liquid.  The dish is finished off with tons of fresh parsley for color and freshness.  This cooking method will result in chicken that is very tender, and a sauce makes your mouth pucker slightly, with clean, acidic, lemony flavor. 
This is a dish that most people will enjoy, but isn’t the least bit boring.  I used to make a lot when I was in college.  It doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, but still feels rather luxurious.  Plus, it pairs nicely with pasta, which is obviously a plus for me.  The sauce coats the pasta nicely; and it looks beautiful with all of the parsley laced throughout.  And if you’re cooking for someone other than yourself, it has an impressive flair.  I also like to grate some Parmesan on top, but it is delicious without it. 

4-6 thin cut chicken cutlets
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup flour
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons capers
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley (reserve some for garnish)

-       Preheat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with 3 tablespoons of olive oil
-       Meanwhile, season chicken breasts with kosher salt and pepper.  Place flour in a wide, shallow dish, and dredge seasoned chicken breasts lightly in flour.
-       Brown chicken cutlets in the pan in batches (do not crowd pan).  Allow them to brown for 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove to a platter.  Add more olive if needed to new batches.
-       Add chicken stock, lemon juice, and capers to the pan.  Gently scrape up any browned bits in the pan, and bring to a boil and add all of the chicken back to the pan.  Simmer for 5 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
-       Remove chicken from pan and add parsley (reserve about a tablespoon for garnish).  Serve chicken with sauce, garnished with reserved parsley, over a bed of linguine if desired (a sprinkle of parmesan is also nice)

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