When Holly broached the subject of "spring chicken," I first thought: I’m sick to death of chicken! But then my mind raced along to an old favorite that I’d all but forgotten.
As I dally in the garden later and later at this time of year, it starts to get dark – and I realize I’ve got to get something delicious on the table lickety-split. Chicken piccata is the perfect solution.
I’m tickled to become reacquainted with this old pal from Italy, where it is served as the "secondo" course – just by its little old self – that comes after pasta. Around here, we usually don’t eat in that multicourse way, so I often serve chicken piccata with pasta, or possibly polenta or rice.
With a bit of forethought, I can put the water on to boil and by the time the pasta is ready, so is this bright, irresistible entree. It hits all of the notes I’m looking for – quick and easy but also complex, thanks to the easy pan sauce fashioned from white wine, capers and fresh lemon juice.
I buy skinless, boneless chicken breasts and butcher them myself – followed by a bit of pounding – to create the half-inch-thick scaloppine that are called for. But you can purchase prepackaged cutlets instead: My sister has a new grandchild and has become the "hack queen" of time-saving, and she insists the cutlets don’t even need pounding and can be used right out of the package.
The entire dish comes together so quickly that you’re settling down to a delicious dinner and glass of wine before you know it.
After a winter of braising chicken thighs in every possible permutation, and roasting whole birds to accompany mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts, I welcome the new season. Whether it's my chicken piccata or Holly’s delectable delight from her air fryer, it’s easy to dispense with those fusty winter recipes and give chicken a well-deserved place at your spring table.
CLARE'S EASY CHICKEN PICCATA
Makes 6 servings
About 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or prepackaged cutlets)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons drained capers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Juice from two lemons
For serving: 1/4 cup chopped parsley and cooked pasta, polenta or rice
If using whole chicken breasts, slice them crosswise and lightly pound between two sheets of plastic wrap until about a half-inch thick (or use prepared thin cutlets).
Place seasoned flour on a plate and dip each cutlet, shaking off excess. Place each cutlet on a plate before working with the next. Discard excess flour.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook cutlets in two batches so as not to crowd the pan. Cook the first batch until brown on the first side, about 3 minutes, and flip them over to brown for another minute. Remove them to a plate, add remaining oil to pan, and cook the second batch.
Reduce heat to medium and add sliced shallots to pan, stirring until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add wine and chicken broth, scraping up any brown bits on bottom of pan, and allow to reduce by about half, about 3 minutes.
Add chicken and capers, and simmer until chicken is fully cooked and sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat and add butter and lemon juice. Stir just to combine. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
Serve with pasta, polenta or rice, garnished with chopped parsley.