This morning my family anxiously awaited the arrival of our newest member, my nephew: Lucas Timothy Edwards! At the time of penning this post I didn’t know his name, just that he was a he, and was due to arrive at any moment. My mother was nearby, watching over my niece, and was trickling bits of information via text message to the rest of us. Needless to say everyone was very excited, sitting on the edge of our seats, impatient for the first picture of the little guy and of course to know what we were going to call him! This baby boy is pretty lucky, he’s already loved by so many people.
I won’t meet Lucas until Thanksgiving in two weeks, but if I were close enough to drop off a meal for my sister this week, I think this would be it. What a beautiful way for a family to start making new memories – with a dish that was a staple for our family growing up. I’d double this recipe as my mother would have done. It was often prepared ahead of time in large quantities to feed a crowd. Our family of seven on its own is a crowd and it was a go to recipe for entertaining.
It was my mother who taught me how satisfying pounding chicken breasts can be. You could butterfly and split the chicken breasts but this method makes them extra tender and it’s far more fun. After pounding the chicken breasts they are coated in flour and cooked in a lemon butter sauce. The flour that coats the chicken creates a roux (of sorts) when it’s browned with the fat and that eventually thickens the sauce. It’s quick and easy, you hardly need a recipe (I didn’t use one, just went off my memories). The only mistake you can make is not using enough fat and letting the browned bits in the pan burn before they are deglazed. If you see that happening add an additional tablespoon or two of butter and/or olive oil and you’ll be saved.
I rarely buy chicken breasts because they require so much extra attention or you end up with dry meat. Prepared this way the chicken is tender and flavorful and the butter-lemon sauce adds enough fat and acid to the dish that the window for tender, flavorful meat is much wider. In other words, it’s hard to screw up, making this an ideal dish for entertaining or to make ahead.
If you’re making this for a larger group, place the chicken in a large oven proof dish, pour the sauce over top and finish in the oven. I served this with quinoa and a leafy salad because I had it on hand but a rice pilaf and green beans or asparagus would make for a fantastic meal.
My Mother's Chicken Piccata
3 chicken breasts
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
1/4 cup capers
1/3 cup chopped parsley
Special Equipment Needed: None
Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a mallet until thickness is decreased in half or about 1/4″ thick. Cut each breast into two equal pieces. Combine flour, salt and pepper on a plate. Coat the pounded chicken breasts in flour well (you will have flour left over at the end).
Melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken breasts to the pan in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan, until lightly browned on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside. If at any time the pan becomes dry add additional butter or olive oil.
Add wine, then lemon juice, and deglaze, stirring up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced by half and thick enough to coat a spoon 3-5 minutes. Add chicken back to the pan, and spoon the sauce over the meat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook 4-5 minutes until cooked through. If the recipe is doubled or is made in advance, the chicken can be moved to an oven proof casserole dish. Pour the sauce over top and finish at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes (will take longer if coming straight from the fridge). Top with capers and parsley and serve.
Wine Pairing: Serve with whatever wine was used to make the sauce. A dry white wine with lemon flavors mimicking the sauce such as a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc would work well. I’d choose one that was lightly oaked or unoaked and had a good amount of acidity to match the intense lemon in this dish.