Piccata is one of our all-time favorite dishes. Mark's Italian heritage and growing up with his Italian grandparents' recipes, along with our travels to Italy have made Italian cuisine our favorite to cook and eat. We absolutely love Italian flavors and this Chicken Piccata with Caper Lemon Butter sauce served with fresh pasta will transport you right to Italy!
What you need to make amazing Chicken Piccata
So, what are the keys to victory here? Unlike many dishes, this one doesn’t have a ton of ingredients so the quality of each ingredient will certainly count. Specifically, we are referring to the chicken stock and the wine. We can assume you’d eat the chicken you’re using with just a little seasoning, so you should be just fine with this massive flavor addition!
Piccata can be made with chicken, veal or pork cutlets with outstanding results. The meat is sometimes pounded to flatten and tenderize it, but isn't as necessary to do with chicken breasts. We cut ours horizontally for the thickness we prefer in this dish, but chicken tenders are a great option here as well.
What you use to cook the chicken is also important. You want to use a stainless steel fry pan, like the Calphalon Premier™ Stainless Steel 10 inch Fry Pan pictured here, because you will be making the sauce in the same pan and all those delicious browned bits from browning the chicken will add tons of flavor to the sauce. We will go into more detail below on the cooking method.
The other ingredients are chicken stock, lemon juice, capers, and wine. So let's break these down further...
First, let’s talk about stock. If you have properly made homemade stock, you’ll have a better dish, but we understand that’s not for everyone.
Whatever the case, try not to use one with salt added. The added salt makes it so hard to control for saltiness, and this is definitely something you will want to control completely. If I want salt in my dish, I’ll add it myself, thank you very much!
Another way to judge your stock is to taste it by itself! If the flavor is decent, but under seasoned, then you should be good to go. If it sucks and tastes like water, then it will not add to the flavor of your dish. All I can say is there is a reason I make chicken stock and freeze it – and it’s not for the entertainment value of making stock!
We will have another blog post soon on making your own stocks, but for now try your best to find a good quality store-bought version.
Secondly, the wine is important, even though you aren’t using much. It is, like the stock, a base of your sauce. And you are going to reduce this down. So, if you concentrate the flavors of a bad wine, you can only come to the conclusion that it will only taste worse!
Just use a wine you can drink on its own and enjoy – it doesn’t have to be fancy at all.
Any white wine will do, but I would always choose a dry wine (as opposed to sweet). If you use a dry wine, it will lose the alcohol bite and impart its true flavors to the dish without an outward sweetness or bitterness. A sweet wine will get sweeter and impart sugary flavors that aren’t necessarily what we are going for here.
If you don’t like dry white wines on their own and you are lost on what to buy for this recipe, choose a sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio or an unoaked chardonnay. There are hundreds to choose from, but it really can’t be nasty on its own or you will just end up amplifying nastiness.
The capers make this dish sing as well. And I’ve experienced a wide array of caper brands with varying results. In the end, you are looking for a subtle briny caper flavor, not a pickling liquid. So make sure you rinse your capers before adding them to the sauce.
If you don't rinse the capers, they will end up overpowering the dish and ruining the balance of flavors in the sauce. Capers are a supporting player in Chicken Piccata, and we don’t want the hot mess of brining liquid to be in here.
The Cooking Method for Chicken Piccata
The last thing that you should really pay attention to is how you cook your chicken. Use a stainless pan (not nonstick) as you will want some bits to stick to the pan prior to deglazing with the wine. This is where more flavor is added to the dish.
You do not hard sear the chicken to form a crust in this recipe. This isn’t fried chicken and it will just burn the flour and make your sauce bitter if you cook it on too high of heat. A light crust will form over medium heat and your flour in a bit of oil/butter will not be a mess.
Things sticking to the pan (fond) are a good things and they’ll release with a little scraping when wine is added, creating a beautiful sauce base.
Our go-to stainless steel pans for this dish are our Calphalon Premier™ Stainless Steel Cookware, specifically the 10 in Fry Pan. It's heavy-gauge aluminum core results in quick and even heating resulting in the perfect cook on the chicken every time, and an even more perfect pan sauce! Even better, these are dishwasher safe so the cleanup is a breeze. If you are cooking as much as we do, easy cleanup is super important.
Check out other recipes with our favorite Calphalon cookware and bakeware products below:
If you are in the market for new cookware, bakeware and cutlery, use our promo code 'COOKWITHWINE25' to get 25% off items sitewide at Calphalon.com (excluding sale items).
Finishing the Caper Lemon Butter Sauce
When you are done reducing the liquids, it is important to remove your pan from the heat when whisking in the butter. You are forming an emulsified sauce and the butter doesn’t really want to play with the stock/wine reduction, so you have to MAKE them be friends. And the thing that will make you fail at this the most is heat.
Once the butter is added, too much heat will break your sauce. There are ways to fix a broken sauce, but that is a longer post for another day. So, the best way is to prevent it from breaking in the first place.
Once that butter is added in and the capers are added for a minute, give it a taste. What is salty to one person isn’t to another. If you need to add anything this is the time to do it. At this point it should be limited to salt, pepper or a tiny bit of lemon juice.
You can keep this sauce warm over very low heat to serve. But don’t reheat it by cranking the burner up, or like we said before, your sauce will break.
What to Serve with Chicken Piccata
Traditionally, Italians enjoy meat dishes with sauce alone or with vegetables as a second course (secondo). Pasta is typically enjoyed as a first course (primo).
But in the United States we generally don't have multiple courses like this during a single meal made at home. For our version, we prepare the Chicken Piccata with homemade pasta, usually fettuccini or spaghetti. We also will make this with risotto, orzo, or cheesy polenta as a different option.
Serve it with whatever side you like since the sauce itself is incredible on almost anything.
We hope you enjoy this Chicken Piccata with Caper Lemon Butter Sauce recipe. If you give it a try, leave us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
If you loved this recipe, check out some of our recent posts below!
Chicken Piccata with Caper Lemon Butter Sauce
- 2 large chicken breasts, sliced in half across (or 4 thin chicken breasts)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup (as needed) all purpose flour
- 10 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ⅔ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup capers - rinsed
COOK THE CHICKEN
- Heat oven to 170°F (warm).
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour (or put the chicken in a plastic bag with the flour and coat completely).
- Melt 2 tablespoon butter in a large stainless skillet over medium heat until butter has stopped foaming, then add the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook about 3-4 minutes per side - to brown and until almost done. If you do this in 2 batches, you may need a little more olive oil.
- Remove chicken to a separate oven-proof dish and place in the oven while you make the sauce in the same fry pan you used to brown the chicken.
MAKE THE SAUCE
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine (scrape the stuck bits with a wooden spoon) and reduce by ⅔ (approximately 5 min).
- Add the lemon juice and chicken stock and reduce until thickened and you have a sauce consistency (approximately 10 minutes).
- Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining 8 tbs of butter a tablespoon at a time.
- Add capers and chicken (and the accumulated chicken juices). Turn the chicken once and cook briefly (about 1-2 minutes) in the sauce. Serve over pasta.