Chicken piccata with lemon caper sauce is a fast and easy weeknight meal, perfect for a family feast! Lightly breaded pan fried chicken simmered in a tangy sauce.
My husband Jason is 100% an Italian food fanatic with meatballs on the top of his list. So I found it interesting that he recently requested some homemade chicken and pasta, could my healthy habits be wearing off!?
To keep my guy happy, I knew just what to do. I made a big family sized batch of tender and tangy chicken piccata. Yum. It’s a simple and classic dish that I’m sure your family enjoy and make each bite disappear. Ready to mangia?
I’ve had many unsuccessful attempts in the past where the chicken breast became too dry as I was waiting on the thicker side to cook all the way. It was a hot mess. My mother-in-law Joan, who is an excellent home cook, taught me many years ago a simple trick to flattening out the chicken.
She used the bottom of a wine bottle! I had never heard that before. No fancy equipment necessary, and the result is similar to hitting the chicken with a rolling pin or mallet. Flattening the pieces of meat ensures the chicken is cooked evenly with a nice golden brown sear. Thanks, Joan!
For this recipe, I used a light flour breading on the outside of this chicken so that the dish wouldn’t get too heavy, yet still had a nice texture. A quick dusting with salt and pepper, flour and a quick dip in hot olive oil, and the cutlets were ready for some lemon caper sauce!
What I love about this lemon caper sauce is that you probably have most of the ingredients already in your kitchen, fresh lemons, chicken broth, butter, thyme, and parsley. Maybe the capers will be on the grocery list, but it’s the key to the characteristic flavor of this dish, so don’t skip it! The chicken simmers in the sauce for a few minutes, soaking up all of that delicious tangy, buttery goodness.
If you bring this piping hot plate of chicken piccata out to the dinner table, I’m pretty sure that your family or guests will be drooling and just itching to dig in!
What are capers?
Capers are what makes this dish unique and exciting, but what in the world are they? I’ll admit I was puzzled the first time I saw them, but then shortly after that first bite, I realized the flavor packed in just one tiny sphere was terrific.
Capers are just pickled flower buds from a shrub-like bush called Capparis spinosa. They are sun-dried and brined or salted, and when added to dishes provide an intense, pungent, salty and tangy flavor. It’s an acquired taste, but when you unlock it’s potential, watch out!
The chicken gets a generous topping of lemon caper sauce, which pools on the bottom and gets soaked back up. Delish! You can go super traditional and make a big bowl of light angel hair pasta on the side, or make some crunchy almond green beans with creamy mashed potatoes for a heartier feast. Enjoy!
How to prevent chicken from drying out when pan frying?
The key to evenly cooked chicken especially when pan frying, is to pound out the pieces or cut them in half so that they are all the same thickness. About a half inch is a good, as you don’t want to go paper thin. For flattening out the chicken, you can use a meat pounder, or get thrifty and anything that has a heavy, sturdy edge. If you have an instant-read digital thermometer, you can quickly check the doneness of the chicken. You want to stop cooking when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
- 2 chicken breasts , butterflied and cuthalf (4 pieces total)
- kosher salt , as needed
- black pepper , freshly ground, as needed
- all-purpose flour , for dredging
- 4 tablespoons olive oil , extra-virgin
- 1/3 cup lemon juice , fresh
- zest of 1 lemon , grated, save a small amount for garnish
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup brined capers , rinsed
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup parsley , fresh, chopped
- Season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
- Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons of oil.
- When the oil is hot and sizzles when a small amount of flour is added to it, carefully add 2 pieces of chicken to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned.
- Remove and transfer to a plate.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan, allow it to heat up and add the last 2 pieces of chicken. Cook 3 minutes on each side and then transfer to the plate.
- Add the lemon juice, zest, broth, capers and fresh thyme to the pan. Bring to a boil and scrape down the brown bits from the pan and whisk until dissolved into the liquid.
- Return all of the chicken to the pan and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to a platter. Remove and discard the thyme.
- Over low heat, vigorously whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter into the sauce. Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper as desired.
- Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.