Chicken Piccata

Published January 2001

Why This Recipe Works

For a chicken piccata recipe that would produce properly cooked chicken coated in a sauce that really tasted of lemons and capers, we found it best to skip the pounding and instead slice the cutlets in half horizontally. For the best lemon flavor, we simmered thin slices of lemon in the sauce and also used a full 1/4 cup of lemon juice, added at the end of cooking to keep it tasting fresh. And we used plenty of capers—2 tablespoons—adding them when the sauce was nearly done so they retained their flavor and structural integrity.


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2 large lemons
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), preferably kosher or Bell and Evans, rinsed, dried thoroughly, trimmed of excess fat, and prepared according to illustrations below
Salt and ground black pepper
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons) or 1 small garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons small capers, drained
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

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Serves 4

If you like, use thinly sliced cutlets available at many supermarkets. These cutlets don't have any tenderloins and can be used as they are.

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set large heatproof plate on rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees.

2. Halve one lemon pole to pole. Trim ends from one half and cut crosswise into slices 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick; set aside. Juice remaining half and whole lemon to obtain 1/4 cup juice; reserve.

3. Sprinkle both sides of cutlets generously with salt and pepper. Measure flour into pie tin or shallow baking dish. Working one cutlet at a time, coat with flour, and shake to remove excess.

4. Heat heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot, about 2 minutes; add 2 tablespoons oil and swirl pan to coat. Lay half of chicken pieces in skillet. Sauté cutlets, without moving them, until lightly browned on first side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Turn cutlets and cook until second side is lightly browned, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes longer. Remove pan from heat and transfer cutlets to plate in oven. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to now-empty skillet and heat until shimmering. Add remaining chicken pieces and repeat.

5. Add shallot or garlic to now-empty skillet and return skillet to medium heat. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds for shallot or 10 seconds for garlic. Add stock and lemon slices, increase heat to high, and scrape skillet bottom with wooden spoon or spatula to loosen browned bits. Simmer until liquid reduces to about 1/3 cup, about 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and capers and simmer until sauce reduces again to 1/3 cup, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and swirl in butter until butter melts and thickens sauce; swirl in parsley. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.


Slicing the Cutlets

After removing the tenderloin, place each cutlet smooth-side up on a cutting board. Holding one hand on top of the cutlet, carefully slice the cutlet in half horizontally.

This will yield two pieces, each between 3/8 and 1/2 inch thick.