Embrace spring with this lemony fresh, light and delicious classic Italian dish
"Home with the Lost Italian" columnist Sarah Nasello says this recipe is versatile, easy to make and delicious.
FARGO — Spring has sprung, and I am in the mood for dishes that are light, bright and sunny, like this delicious and easy-to-make Scaloppine of Chicken Piccata.
Piccata is one of my favorite Italian sauces. Unlike tomato or cream sauces, piccata is a light sauce made of lemon, butter, white wine, garlic and capers, and it is surprisingly simple to make at home. Veal is traditionally served with a piccata sauce, but this can be difficult to find in our region, so we typically use chicken or pork tenderloin with great results.
I love almost any dish that is prepared with the Italian method of scaloppine — a technique of pounding meat into tender, thin cutlets, or scallops. Scaloppine is often found on Italian menus in myriad forms, including piccata, Marsala, Milanese, pizzaiola and saltimbocca. As I mentioned, we have enjoyed this preparation with a variety of meats and have even had success with beef and bison tenderloin.
For this recipe, I use whole, boneless and skinless chicken breasts, and can typically get three cutlets from each whole breast. I trim any excess globules of fat from each breast and then I use a sharp knife to slice the breast lengthwise, pulling the knife horizontally through the breast from top to bottom, to create cutlets that are about a quarter-inch thick.
To create the thin scallops of meat, I place the cutlet between two pieces of plastic wrap and use the flat side of my meat mallet to gently pound it until it is about 1/8-inch thick. The cutlet will flatten out and expand as you pound, and this step ensures that the meat is as tender as possible.
To help thicken the sauce, I dredge each cutlet in flour before they are sauteed in oil, but this step can be skipped for a gluten-free option. Next, I saute the cutlets in hot oil just until they are lightly browned on each side. Because the cutlets have been pounded thin, this only takes about two minutes per side to achieve.
Once browned, I remove the cutlets from the pan and deglaze it with a bit of dry white wine. This step adds terrific flavor to the sauce and most of the alcohol content will cook off as the wine reduces. Deglazing also helps to loosen the flavorful brown bits of chicken that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Once the wine has reduced by about half, I add some chicken stock, lemon juice, capers, sugar and salt and let the sauce cook until the ingredients have blended together, about three minutes. Then, I remove the pan from the heat and slowly stir in the butter until it has melted.
Finally, I return the chicken cutlets to the pan and continue to cook it over low heat until a thin, saucelike consistency is achieved, which takes only about another minute or two. To serve, I place the cutlets on a large platter, overlapping one another, and pour the sauce over the entire platter. I garnish the chicken piccata with freshly chopped parsley and paper-thin slices of lemon.
This Scaloppine of Chicken Piccata cooks quickly and is so tender you only need a fork to cut it. Lemony fresh, light and delicious, this classic Italian dish embodies the very essence of spring.
FYI: Be sure to check out my Recipe Time Capsules today and over the next few weeks, as they are full of great recipe ideas for spring and Easter.
Scaloppine of Chicken Piccata
Serves: 2 to 4
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4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise (horizontally) into cutlets approx. ¼-inch thick (depending on size and thickness, you will get 2 to 3 cutlets per breast)
2 cups flour for dredging (may omit for gluten-free option)
½ cup vegetable or olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock or water
¼ cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 cup), cubed
For the garnish:
1 lemon, cut into very thin slices
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and set aside.
Place 1 chicken cutlet between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Use the flat edge of a meat mallet to gently pound the cutlet until it reaches a thickness between 1/8- to ¼-inch. Place the pounded cutlet on the prepared baking sheet and repeat until all the cutlets have been pounded thin.
Next, place the flour in a shallow dish (like a pie plate) and dredge each chicken cutlet in the flour on both sides, shaking off any excess flour. Place the dredged cutlet back on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining cutlets.
Line another baking sheet or platter with paper towels and set next to the stove. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot, about 1 minute. Place the chicken cutlets in the pan, overlapping one another, and saute in the hot oil on both sides until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Reduce heat to medium if the chicken appears to be browning too much. Repeat this step until all the cutlets have been lightly browned.
Add the wine and cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 3 to 4 minutes, scraping the browned bits of chicken to loosen them from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock/water, lemon juice, capers, sugar and salt to the pan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and slowly stir in the butter.
Once the butter has melted, add chicken cutlets to the sauce and return the pan to the burner. Cook over low heat until a saucelike consistency is achieved, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the cutlets to serving plates or a platter and spoon the sauce over the top. Garnish with freshly cut parsley and thin lemon slices, serve and enjoy.
- This dish cooks very quickly, so have any side dishes ready to serve before starting the piccata.
- Pair with whipped potatoes or a long pasta noodle like linguine or spaghetti, and a green vegetable like asparagus, broccolini or green beans.
- The piccata sauce can also be served with pork or turkey, as well as flaky white fish like walleye or halibut.
Recipe Time Capsule:
This week in...
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Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.