Saturday, November 24, 2012

Creamy Chicken Piccata

Piccata is actually a method of preparing food in which the meat is sliced, lightly coated in flour, sauteed, and served with a sauce made of the pan drippings along with the addition of butter, lemon juice, capers, and stock or wine.  The dish originated in Italy using veal, but here in the United States, chicken is a popular variation of this. 

Follow me in a step-by-step prep of this classic Italian recipe.  I promise, I will take all the perceived difficulty out of cooking this chicken dish and you will end up with a creamy, tangy sauce that is simple but heavenly... and certainly worthy of "date night" or having company over.

In Italy, veal piccata is a secondo which would be served after the pasta (or starch) course.  Here in the United States, it is usually served with a starch, such as pasta.  I like to take my piccata a couple of steps farther with the addition of the chopped sun dried tomatoes and heavy cream.  The cream tones down the acidity and makes the sauce oh so silky on your tongue (while maintaining the tartness of the lemon) and the sun dried tomatoes are chewy and tangy, and balance the creaminess very well.  They add texture, color, flavor, and an extra nutritional punch.

 
Ingredients:
Miss Lily
  • 1 - 1.25 pound chicken breast tenders
    • (or 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - butterflied and sliced in half)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup white wine, chilled  (a medium to dry wine – not sweet)
  • 2 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 2 Tbsp sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Italian parsley, chopped (optional for garnish)
  • 1 fresh lemon for garnish
  • ½ - 1 cup heavy cream
  • flour for dredging the chicken
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • linguini pasta

Step-by-step
For this dish, we will need 1/3 cup lemon juice.  Please do yourself a favor and use fresh lemons - the ones that came from a tree.  NOT the stuff that comes from a squeezie bottle!
Roll the lemons a few times on the table under firm pressure to get more juice out of them.  You can also pop them in the microwave about 15 seconds.
To maximize the yield of each lemon, use a reamer.  I can get way more out this way than squeezing them with my hands.
To speed up your prep, consider using pre-cut chicken tenders.  If using whole breasts, slice chicken breasts diagonally into medallions (~ 3-4 each).  Pound chicken pieces between plastic wrap until very thin and even thickness. 
Firm but gentle is what you need here.  Don't tear your chicken.
My lovely assistant Lily does a great job of flattening the chicken tenders under plastic wrap.
Not only will these cook super fast because they are so thin, but the pounding also tenderizes them.
Season chicken with salt and pepper.  
Be generous.
Dredge the chicken pieces lightly in flour and shake off the excess.   This flour will help thicken the sauce later.
You will obviously make sure that your helpers wash their hands thoroughly after touching the chicken.  Never to early to start learning all these little kitchen lessons!
 
Add the 2 Tbsp EVOO and 2 Tbsp butter to a pan.  
Get your pan hot first.
The butter plus the EVOO gives a great flavor plus has a lower smoking point than butter alone.
When they start sizzling, add in a few of your prepared chicken pieces. 
You want them to begin sizzling immediately, or else your butter is not hot enough.  We don't want them in cool oil or else they will soak it up and be oily. 
You don’t want to crowd the pan, so it takes a few pans full to get it all done.  I can usually get about 3 pieces of chicken per pan in each batch. 
Saute the chicken on med-high heat for about 3 minutes on each side until light brown.
They will cook pretty fast since they are so thin.  
They will still be fairly "blond" in color - but they will be cooked.  If you let them go until "golden brown," they will be overdone in the end.
Remove and keep warm.   
I just put mine on a separate plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep them hot.
At this point, you can start heating your water for the linguini. When water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook according to package directions, about 10 - 11 min.

On med-high heat, add 1/3 cup white wine to deglaze the pan that the chicken was cooked in and reduce.
I keep these little "individual" bottles of wine in the panty as they are a great size for cooking!  But feel free to just deglaze with additional chicken stock if you prefer to not use wine.
Scrape up all the fond (browned bits stuck to the bottom) to incorporate all the flavors into the sauce.
Add in 1 cup chicken broth...  
1/3 cup lemon juice...
Okay, I admit - it's not very pretty right now... but just wait until the end!!
 2 Tbsp drained capers...
and 2 Tbsp sun dried tomatoes.
I prefer using the sun dried tomatoes in the bag (found usually in the produce section) rather than the ones packaged in oil
Bring to a boil, then reduce the sauce by half.

For timing, your pasta needs to be going in now...


Now add in the 1/2 - 1 cup heavy cream...  
and the remaining 2 Tbsp cold butter.  
Adjust seasonings as needed...
Now lets follow this sauce for a few minutes...  It starts off fairly watery and very fluid. 
 

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to about medium.  Give the flour on the chicken, butter and cream a chance to thicken the sauce.  This could vary according to the amount of heat, the type of pan, etc.  I'd say anywhere from about 5-10 minutes.  I usually let it go until my linguini is about ready to drain.
Tip - What we are looking for:  reduction in volume, a slight color change, and you can see that the bubbles actually change in character.  When the sauce is still really liquid, the bubbles are small and burst easily.  When it starts to really become the reduced sauce we are looking for, the bubbles are larger and more 'elastic' looking - and they linger longer before popping.
Drain the linguini now and add to the sauce.  You can also plate them up separately, but I like to put it all together.  It's just easier with lots of kiddos around.
Give it all a stir to incorporate.  You can see that it's starting to come together now.
You should probably have more sauce to pasta ratio than you think you will need, as pasta soaks up sauce really quickly.  We don't want the pasta to be dry.  We are going for creamy!
Now add sauteed chicken cutlets back to the sauce. 
Add in some thin slices of lemon...
Add in a handful of chopped parsley. 
And here we have it!
Can you see how much sauce has already soaked up into the pasta?!
Tender linguini bathed in a silky and lemony cream sauce...
 Bright fresh parsley - one of the quintessential flavors of Italy!
Chewy and tangy sun dried tomatoes...
Tart fresh lemons...
The briny capers..adding another dimension of flavor.. And all of these at once is just a big WOW in your mouth!!
I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of piccata in the restaurants, because all I get is the acidity of the lemons.  With my recipe, I feel that this flavor is more balanced with the cream in the sauce. 

You MUST try it!  Let's review - fast (30 minutes), easy (step-by-step - you can do this), kid friendly but still impressive enough for guests! 

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Looking for more recipes?
Please visit my Recipe Index for tons of great recipes to cook for/with your family!  Some things are made from leftovers to stretch your budget, others are totally from scratch, while others make use of convenience items for a semi-homemade meal.  I also have a wide array of ethnic recipes represented.  Here are a few to pique your curiosity:
Left Over Pot Roast Pot Pie

Hoppin' John Fritters
Cheater Cheater Chicken and Dumplings
Sun Dried Tomato Chicken
Smoky Sweet Pulled Pork
Sesame Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry

Written Directions
To speed up your prep, consider using pre-cut chicken tenders.  If using whole breasts, slice chicken breasts diagonally into medallions (~ 3-4 each).  Pound chicken pieces between plastic wrap until very thin and even thickness. Season chicken with salt and pepper.   Dredge the chicken pieces lightly  in flour and shake off the excess.  Add the 2 Tbsp EVOO and 2 Tbsp butter to a pan.  When they start sizzling, add in a few of your prepared chicken pieces.  Saute the chicken on med-high heat for about 3 minutes on each side until light brown. They will cook pretty fast since they are so thin.  Remove and keep warm.  You don’t want to crowd the pan, so it takes a few pans full to get it all done.  I can usually get about 3 pieces of chicken per pan in each batch.
At this point, you can start heating your water for the linguini. When water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook according to package directions, about 10 - 11 min.
On med-high heat, add 1/3 cup white wine to deglaze the pan that the chicken was cooked in and reduce.  Scrape up all the fond (browned bits stuck to the bottom) to incorporate all the flavors into the sauce.  Add in 1 cup chicken broth, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 2 Tbsp capers, and 2 Tbsp sun dried tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the sauce by half, then add the remaining 2 Tbsp cold butter and 1/2 - 1 cup heavy cream.  Adjust seasonings and add chicken back to the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.  Plate the chicken over your drained linguini with sauce, parsley, and thinly cut lemon slices for garnish.

18 comments:

  1. This was really wonderful! Much better than a restaurant even. We loved it and it going on our repeat list for sure. Thanks for sharing it!

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    1. Thanks, Ryan! The reason I came up with this recipe in the first place was that I liked the concept of restaurant style piccata, but always felt they were too acrid and needed a better balance for all of the acidity. I admit, I enjoy my creamy version better, too. Please stop by the blog again!

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  2. Individual white wines...genius!!! Thanks for that invaluable tip.

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    1. Kashmere - yes. They are so convenient, and just the right size! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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  3. Oh my goodness, that is brilliant. Headed to the liquor store now :). Thanks for the recipe!

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    1. Your comment struck me as so funny! But let me know how it comes out.... it's one of my favorites!

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  4. Congratulations on the most beautifully presented and exceptionally clear instructions for a recipe I have ever seen! I can't wait to try it! Think I might add grated parmesan over mine! Love your blog-found you through pinterest! Lynette,in the UK.

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    Replies
    1. Lynette - Thank you for such a lovely compliment! Glad you found my blog.... hope you come back and visit again!!
      Julie

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  5. OMG that looks absolutely delicious! I can't wait to try it thank you for sharing! God bless your beautiful princess :)

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    1. Julia - many thanks for your sweet message. I hope you enjoy the dish and will come back to visit my blog as a regular.
      Julie

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  6. Hi! I found this on Pinterest, made it tonight, and my boyfriend and I LOVED IT!!! I purchased smoked sun dried tomatoes by mistake, but we really enjoyed the extra flavor they added! I also used half and half because we already had it and it still turned out well! Thank you for sharing-this will definitely be going in my recipe book :)

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    1. Claire - welcome aboard!!!! So glad you found me, trusted in my recipe... and most of all that y'all enjoyed. Please come back again any time! Oh- and thanks for dropping me a note about it.
      Julie

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  7. This looks so delicious! I'm trying to find new pasta dishes to try, especially since my kids are getting tired of spaghetti. Marking this one down and pinning it for later.

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  8. This looks so yummy!! I love the way you use pics and describe what's supposed to be happening. A lot of other sites just write the recipe and they aren't very helpful especially for beginning cookers like myself! Anyways I love your blog and I am going to try some recipes this week for my boys! Thank you

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  9. Going to try this! Love all the pics.

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  10. This is fabulous! My family said they felt like they were at a fancy restaurant. Great recipe. I substituted picked artichoke hearts for the capers because I didn't realize they had gone bad. It was really great. Did it tonight the second time. Just as good!

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  11. THANK YOU SO MUCH !!!! I am new to cooking and this WONDERFUL meal turned out EXCELLENT !!!! Made it for Valentine's dinner and it was a HUGE success !!!!!!!! Your wonderful presentation with the pictures and step-by-step instructions helped make it turn out so good !!!!! This will now be one of our regular meals. You are now saved as one of my favorites !!!

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  12. Its very easy for anyone to make this recipe with the help of images you have posted here.Making any dish with cream chicken is always rich in look and delicious to taste.Your recipe is one from those which we can never say no to eat.

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