This afternoon I went for a long walk around the lake and by kilometre six I was so ravenous with hunger that all I could think about was Italian chicken piccata and a cold Perrier. Despite how the name sounds to those that speak the Romance Languages, this dish isn’t spicy or piquant at all – piccata actually refers to the way the meat is prepared: sauteed and served in a sauce of butter, lemon, spices and parsley. This dish can be made with chicken or veal, though my preference is the former; and it uses four of my favourite ingredients in the pan sauce that accompanies it: freshly-squeezed lemon juice, cilantro, wine and capers. When all four are used together in one recipe, the aroma makes me delirious and misty-eyed. It is really that good, I swear. The other great thing about this dish is the heavy whacking involved in the preparation of the meat, to flatten it out before dredging it in batter. A perfect way to blow off steam, pounding the cutlets can be done with either a meat tenderizer, rolling pin or heavy Ayn Rand novel.
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp of coarse salt or sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
4 chicken or veal cutlets (pounded to roughly 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick – this should only involve a minute or so of mild exertion per cutlet )
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp dry white wine (plus a glass for drinking)
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus 2 tbsp for squeezing afterwards on chicken
2 tbsp capers from jar (soak these in water for 10 minutes, then drain, to remove some of the salt)
2 tbsp chopped cilantro or parsley (I really enjoy the taste so I doubled the amount here)
1. Place the chicken or veal in plastic wrap and place on a steady, even surface. Pound with a heavy object until flattened to roughly 1/4 – 1/2 thickness.
2. Spread the flour in a dish and add salt, pepper and thyme. Stir or whisk together. Place chicken or veal cutlets in the seasoned flour and coat both sides well. Gently shake off extra flour.
3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan with 1 tbsp butter, over medium-high heat. When butter is melted and begins to bubble, place the chicken in and cook for roughly 3 minutes each side, or until both sides are golden brown. You may need to cook the chicken in batches of two, depending on the size of the pan. Place the cooked chicken aside on a plate and pour out any excess oil remaining.
4. Turn down the frying pan to medium heat and add the wine. It’s ok if there are some brown bits from the chicken remaining in the pan; use a wooden spoon to scrape these up and mix with the wine to add flavour. Cook for 1 minute or until liquid reduces by about half. Add remaining 2 tbsp of butter, capers and lemon juice and mix together with wooden spoon or spatula. Add the chopped cilantro or parsley and stir for 10 seconds then remove from heat. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve while hot.