Spicy capers and lemon juice brighten up this classic dish, the Mobile Chef’s ticket out of chicken purgatory
By Tom Castrigno
Chicken is one of the most popular food items on the American menu. Often considered humble, it is the stuff of family dinners. During my high school and college years I ate so much chicken I was afraid I would grow feathers.
I often stayed for dinner at my high school girlfriend’s home, and it always seemed to be the night her mom prepared chicken. At home, my mom generally served chicken once or twice per week. On Thursdays I would visit my father. His wife would invariably serve chicken. Of course we all know that college venues feature chicken several nights per week — Cluck cluck.
It took a while but I got over my chicken phobia. The first step in rediscovering chicken was to identify a new dish that had not been served during those earlier years. Something with a distinctive flavor was needed. I had seen chicken piccata in restaurants before and decided to investigate further, and when I did, I found my ticket out of chicken purgatory.
Finished with a splash of white wine and a sprinkle of capers, chicken takes a starring role on the plate. Piccata means sharp, and in this recipe, fresh lemon juice helps the dish live up to tis name. The finished dish is bright and lively. Done right, it will be so tender you can cut it with a fork. It cooks quickly, and aside from two steps that require specific technique, is easy to prepare at home.
If you see thinly sliced chicken breast in the store you can skip one of the steps. Otherwise, you will need to slice a chicken breast in half horizontally. Thin pieces are important so the chicken cooks quickly. The other technique needed is the ability to manage a hot pan. Cooking must be done in batches to ensure good results. This dish is perfect for a small number of people, say four to six.
Chicken can be a part of your healthy eating habits. The Mediterranean diet, for example, focuses on lean protein. Boneless, skinless chicken breast fits that description well. With its variety of flavors, chicken piccata helps send a signal to the brain that the body has been nourished.
For some people chicken has a reputation as a boring budget meal. For health-conscious eaters it is a regular part of the menu. When a light, simple preparation is called for, chicken piccata rises to the occasion.