Have you ever seen American Hustle? One of my favorite scenes is when Jeremy Renner’s character takes out the main protagonist played by Christian Bale along with his unstable wife, Jennifer Lawrence to dinner at a neighborhood favorite Italian joint. During this scene everyone is clearly getting drunk and falling out of the booth, but one of the moments that stands out in that scene is when their food arrives. It’s such a small moment, but you hear Jeremy Renner’s wife scream “this is piccata of the gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawds,” and it made me laugh hysterically. Even though piccata’s been one of my favorite things to cook long before this movie came out I feel like that scene gave me something to aspire to. I always knew my piccata was good, but it was time to go from being good to of the gaaaaaaaaawds.
In my opinion piccata is one of those dishes that is just so perfect in every way. Traditionally the sauce is lemon, capers, chicken stock, and butter. My special touch to this dish is adding dry white wine to the sauce to give the acidity of the sauce even more depth. So you have this sauce that is bright, lemon-tastic, a little briny from the capers, yet despite all that brightness it has a decadence from the butter. This is one of those dishes that delivers huge flavor, guaranteed. The piccata sauce is also incredibly versatile. For this post I put it over chicken, but I love it with seafood. I cook it with shrimp regularly and it would pair beautifully with any white fish like sole. I recommend serving it over a softer side like polenta, or in this case mashed potatoes. It is also sublime over pasta.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tblsp garlic powder
- 1 tblsp old bay
- 4 tblsp grapeseed oil
- 6 tblsp butter
- 1/2 cup rinsed capers
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 large, herculean lemon or 2 physically less impressive lemons that still have a great personality
- 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
The first step to a good piccata is getting your chicken as thin as possible. I always do this by butterflying the chicken and then cutting it in half. Butterflying is a process where you slice through the chicken with your knife parallel to the cutting board. This will cause your chicken to open up like a book, once you reach this point go ahead and slice all the way through so you will have two pieces of chicken per breast. After you get every piece sliced pound them out just to make sure they are perfectly even. If for whatever reason you are opposed to butterflying then you can just pound out the chicken really thin. I personally think the result is better when you cut the chicken because just pounding them will leave you with these comically large pieces of chicken that are harder to handle. I also like the aesthetic of giving people multiple pieces of chicken. It tricks them into thinking you’re more generous than you actually are, and there is nothing wrong with that.
After you get your chicken nice and thin go ahead and season each side of the meat with salt and pepper. Add two tablespoons of the oil and butter to your pan and put it on medium-high heat. While your pan heats mix the flour, garlic powder, and old bay seasoning. When your pan is ready to go dredge your first few pieces of chicken in the flour mixture and put them directly in the pan. It is very important that you do not dredge the chicken ahead of time. I know it seems more convenient, but in actuality if the flour sits for too long the moisture of the chicken will cause the flour to make these weird dough balls on the meat and you won’t get that beautiful shade of brown when it is time to actually cook. After you add your freshly dredged chicken to the pan give it about one to two minutes per side, just enough time to let the outside of the chicken brown up a little. After it is done place the chicken on a paper towel covered plate to drain off extra grease. Keep cooking the chicken in batches using this process. After about the second batch you will probably need to add more oil and butter to the pan. That is perfectly normal, just make sure not to over grease your pan.
After every piece of chicken is cooked and resting on that plate add your white wine to the pan. Give it a minute or two to let the alcohol cook out. Then add your chicken stock, capers, and the juice from the lemon(s) and turn the heat down to low. When your sauce drops from a boil to a simmer add the chicken back in the pan. Let them cook in the sauce for about four minutes a side, and then put them back on their plate. Add two to three tablespoons of butter to the sauce and salt and pepper to taste.
As you can tell when I serve this dish I like to have the chicken resting on top of the side for presentation, and then I just go crazy and slather everything in the sauce. It is that good.