The first time I made chicken piccata, my husband made the boldest statement I’ve ever heard him make about my food: “This is the best chicken dish I have ever tasted! Whenever you make chicken, please let it be this dish.” And you know what? I get it. He has got very excited about my ice cream and peanut butter granola before. But I never expected that level of enthusiasm over a chicken dinner. We do eat a fair bit of chicken – it is one of the cheapest meats available after all, but none of us are particularly enamoured with it. We get much more excited about a meltingly soft leg of lamb or a hunk of beef or crispy bacon rashers.
But this…oh, this is worth the fuss. It is an easy, one-pot, cheap dish that provides the most tender, succulent chicken you have ever tasted. It is rich, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth soft and the best possible dinner you can make when you have guests round, simply because it is so impressive for so little work!
Chicken piccata is frequently found in American restaurants, I believe. It certainly isn’t something I’d come across here in England before. But after trying a couple of recipes for it, I realised what all the fuss was about. Strangely enough, the recipe was actually one I knew already, but I knew it as a fish recipe called “sole meuniere”. It is a gorgeous French dish, dazzlingly simple but complexly flavoured, by far my favourite fish dish in the world. If I could afford to buy sole more often, I would probably make it weekly, if not more! But sadly sole, as beautiful a fish as it may be, is far from cheap. Chicken, however? I nearly always have chicken in my fridge or freezer.
So for those Europeans, like me, who have eaten a beautifully cooked, buttery sole meuniere before, but have only heard murmurs of chicken piccata, think of it as the poor man’s meuniere. Not because it doesn’t taste as nice (although sole will always beat chicken for flavour in my book), but because it is literally for the poor man. But affordable as it may be, it certainly tastes expensive and sophisticated.
Now that’s my kind of chicken dinner…
This chicken dish is the best way to cook chicken, hands down. The meat melts in your mouth, and the rich, nutty, buttery sauce is divine. It may be cheap and simple, but it tastes expensive and sophisticated.
- 2 large chicken breasts (or 3 small ones), sliced thinly horizontally into 6-8 thin "breasts"
- 35 g (1/4 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour*
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 4 lemon slices, optional
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 185 ml (3/4 cup) sugar free good quality chicken stock (ideally homemade) or water
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1/2 bunch (10g) fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
Dip the chicken breast slices into the flour to coat, shaking off any excess. Heat 2 tbsp of the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until it starts to bubble, then carefully lay the chicken slices in the pan and fry for about 2-3 mins on either side, until the meat is browned and pretty much cooked through (if you can't fit all the chicken into the pan at once, fry in batches). Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Add the remaining butter to the pan and allow it to melt until it bubbles and starts to smell a bit "nutty" and turn brown. Add the garlic, lemon slices and juice, stock or water, and the capers. Fry for a minute, then return the chicken to the pan and cook for another 5 mins until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly (from the flour on the meat).
Take off the heat, top with the fresh parsley and serve with cooked rice or polenta or simply some crusty bread, and a big plate of steamed greens or a large side salad.
*I've used wholemeal flour successfully and I really enjoy it as it adds an extra depth of flavour, but it does taste a little more "floury", so use plain/all-purpose if that bothers you. If you are looking to make this low carb, ground almonds/almond flour work as well, or you could skip the flour altogether!