The definition of piccata in cooking is thin slices of meat, typically veal or chicken, that are dredged in flour, sauteed and served in a lemon butter sauce. A piccata is typically associated with Italian cooking although it’s quite possible it actually originated in the U.S. in the 1930s in Italian-American kitchens. The immigrants who first created the dish were likely of Sicilian descent since the ingredients – lemons, capers, garlic – were so common in Sicilian cooking. It was originally prepared with veal, which during that time in history was much cheaper than chicken, believe it or not!
- Tambi Lane Photo
- Heirloom tomatoes and thinly pounded chicken slices stacked and drenched in luxurious lemon caper butter sauce
In this recipe I actually prefer chicken and I also prefer pounding the chicken flat versus thinly slicing it with a knife. The pounding adds tenderness to the meat, which, once cooked in the lemon butter sauce, literally melts in your mouth. But, if you ask me, the real star of piccata is the sauce. Lemony, briny, buttery and downright luxurious is how I would describe it.
In this version, I’ve added in-season heirloom tomatoes for a twist on the classic dish. Tomatoes are in season through October in Oregon (and in Paris, where I’m writing from this week) and there are certainly some good ones available now. Plus, stacking the tomato slices with the chicken slices looks fancy and sometimes fancy is fun!
Please don’t be shy about making this sauce. Once I finally made it at home myself I was astonished at how easy and forgiving it was, meaning you have wiggle room as far as ingredient measurements. In other words, if you taste it after using the ingredient amounts that I’m suggesting in the recipe and it doesn’t taste the way you were hoping it would, you can add more lemon or more wine/liquid or more capers or more salt or whatever. The key is TASTING. You must taste the sauce. I typically start tasting it after I’ve added the first bit of butter after stirring in the garlic, capers and lemon. I often add more butter and more lemon. The sauce cooks up quickly so this is a quick dish to prepare. Have everything in place before you even start browning the chicken because once you get going, there’s no down time. Bon Appetit!
- Photo courtesy Donna Britt
- Heirloom tomatoes are in season now
Heirloom Tomato Chicken Piccata Stack
· 4 to 8 chicken breasts, thinly sliced and/or pounded (you can butterfly larger breasts to make two pieces if you want – the idea is to end up with 2 palm-size pounded pieces of FLAT chicken for each serving)
· ½ cup all-purpose flour
· Big pinch each of salt & freshly ground black pepper
· 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
· 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
· ¼ to ½ cup white wine
· 4-5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced or minced
· 1-2 tablespoons capers
· Fresh lemon juice (from at least one lemon – add more lemon juice to taste)
· 1-2 more tablespoons of butter
· 2-3 large heirloom tomatoes, thickly sliced
· Parsley sprig & lemon slices for garnish, as desired
Mix flour with salt & pepper on a large platter or plate. Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, lightly coating both sides. Heat olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.
Lightly brown chicken pieces. This will only take a couple of minutes on each side. Remove chicken to a clean platter or plate.
Pour wine into the same skillet (after chicken is removed, leaving all residue for the deglazing). Keep heat on medium-high. Add garlic, capers and lemon juice to the bubbling wine, then stir in butter a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. If you want a thinner sauce, you can add more wine or even broth or a bit of water. Taste the sauce and add more butter, more capers or more lemon if desired. You may also want to add more salt & pepper but be sure and taste before you do. Return chicken to sauce and heat through.
To serve, place a piece of chicken on each plate. Add a tomato slice then another piece of chicken. And finally stack another tomato on the very top. Drizzle and spoon sauce over the stack and around the plate. Garnish with parsley and lemon as desired.Serve with a slice of warm bread with olive oil and a side of something green.
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