Mastering a good chicken picatta sauce

lpinkmountainNovember 16, 2012

BF loves chicken picatta and I'd like to try (again) to make it for him. I just don't have good luck with the sauce on that. I don't seem to like flour or cornstarch thickened sauces, I do better with ones that are a reduction. My usual way is to sautee some muchrooms and onion in lots of butter. When the mushrooms are almost done, dredge the chicken in flour and saute it on both sides until done. Then remove the chicken and deglaze the pan with wine and broth. Reduce that a bit, (it also thickens due to the small amount of flour in it from the chicken), then I add a bit of milk to it, or a dab of neufchatel and a healthy sprinkle of parmesean. Place the chicken back into the pan to reheat briefly and serve with sauce.

However, this time I do not have mushrooms and want to make the kind of sauce you do with capers. With this sauce I'm not sure it would be a good idea to add the milk or neufchatel so I'm left with a reduction of broth and wine but I'm not sure that will taste good. I've not had success with just that in the past. Help!

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beachlily z9a

Perhaps I can help you with this, pink. Here is the Piccata sauce I make:

1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine
Juice from 1 lemon
3-4 teaspoons capers
1 cup chicken broth + 2 teaspoons flour

In drippings from pan used to brown chicken, saute onion and garlic for about 1 minute. Add wine and then add broth. Pour in lemon juice and capers. Return meat to the sauce, simmer for 10 minutes and serve.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 11:27AM
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I make piccata with either veal or chicken. I do add a teaspoon of flour to the pan drippings to make the sauce,( I like lots of sauce) but you can leave that out. I am also not a fan of capers,so I sub green peppercorns.


Veal Piccata

Edited May/2009

4 veal scallopini, pounded thin
Or boneless chicken breasts or veal tenderloin
flour seasoned with salt and pepper
olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons butter
1 to 2 teaspoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
lemon zest
juice of one lemon
Capers or Green Peppercorns
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Chicken or Pork tenderloin for for the Veal
. Bring Chicken broth to a boil and add peppercorns if using. Allow to
sit for 10 or 15 minutes to soften.

Heat oil in Skillet.

Dip veal into seasoned flour and saute one or two at a time, quickly
on each side.

Remove from pan.

Heat tablespoon butter, 1 to 2 teaspoons flour, cook for a couple of
minutes. (Do not brown), add minced garlic. Add chicken broth with
peppercorns and simmer until reduced. Add lemon zest and lemon
juice. Place the meat back into pan and simmer until reheated.

If using capers instead of peppercorns, add now.

Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley

Serve with either a side of pasta or with potatoes and vegetables

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 11:34AM
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OK, I'm going to have to tread lightly on this because BF does not like lemon all that much! (I love it). But it seems like if you're not adding milk (which is what I use instead of cream) to carry your flavor, then you have to be very careful with the mix of ingredients. Maybe my sauce for this tastes marginal because I use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. I just don't normally have chicken broth in the house! Veg broth, wine and lemon, I have to get just the right mix!!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 12:27PM
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They're practically giving away canned chicken broth in the grocery stores this week so get a can and forget about the milk or cream. None of these recipes, including mine, use it.


4 chicken breasts (6 oz. each)
2 T. olive oil
1/4 c. white wine
1 t. minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. capers
2 T. butter
Fresh lemon slices, at least one per chicken breast

Prepare the chicken for cutlets. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken cutlets, dredge in flour, and shake off excess flour.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute cutlets until brown on one side, 2-3 minutes. Flip the cutlets and cover the pan for 2-3 minutes. Remove cutlets and poor off remaining oil if there is a lot.

Return the pan to medium heat and add wine and garlic and cook until liquid is nearly gone and garlic barely begins to brown - about 2 minutes. Add broth, lemon juice and capers.

Return cutlets to pan and cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove cutlets to platter and add butter and lemon slices to the sauce. Melt butter and then pour the sauce over the cutlets.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:58PM
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The hardest thing for me was learning not to get the sauce too hot to avoid breaking it up. Take it off the burner when you're adding the butter.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 3:11PM
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I sautee a couple of T. chopped onion in a very little bit of olive oil, remove to a plate, then have my chicken or veal pounded very thin and dredged in flour....and lots of garlic chopped...2 cloves per meat portion.
add a couple of T.s of butter to the pan over medium heat, when it foams add the meat and brown on one side, flip over and add the garlic, brown the other side, stirring the garlic to keep from burning, when 2 nd side is sort of brown, turn fire down and add a good cup of dry white wine and the reserved onion.....simmer until the meat is done, ( if your meat is really thin it should take about 1 minute) remove meat to a warm platter, simmer to reduce the wine to half, add a tablespoon of capers and a splash of chicken broth or more wine and a coupole of tablespoons of chopped parsley. Whisk in a couple of tablespoons butter after turning off the heat....thickens the sauce....sort of a buerre blanc. Squeeze a little lemon over the cutlets and top with sauce....serve with angel hair pasta tossed with butter and grated parmesan.
The amount of lemon will depend on how dry your wine is....if it has any sweetness, it will get sweeter upon you will need more lemon.
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 4:02PM
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Yeah Ruthanna I really know the irony of that chicken broth remark, they ARE giving it away free. Unfortunately there is a 50 dollar limit on groceries in order for you to get the free can of chicken broth and we spent so much last week trying to qualify for our free bag of flour and chocolate chips, that we don't need 50 dollars of groceries this week! The reason we spend so much is ya gotta grab some specials while they have 'em. So we probably saved 5 bucks but now can't save 5 bucks this week, unless we get a bunch of stuff we don't need and . . . I am so confused, they have me coming and going!!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 4:41PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I don't think a picatta sauce has milk, cream or cream cheese in it at, least, not that I've seen. I make something similar to the above recipes but just wing it.
If bf doesn't like lemon, you might try sage, I like that a lot with those flavors.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 6:08PM
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If BF doesn't like lemon, then he doesn't really like Chicken Piccata. He likes something else but it ain't Piccata. The flavorings are lemon and capers. The rest is dry white wine or chicken broth or even water, butter or olive oil. No milk, no cream cheese, no mushrooms. I make it without garlic but I know other people use garlic, too.

The link has a recipe close to what I do but I pound the chicken.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chicken Piccata

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 8:43PM
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If BF doesn't like lemon, then he doesn't really like Chicken Piccata.

Agreed. To me chicken piccata is essentially the same thing as chicken francaise without the egg coating on the chicken. The sauce is based on lemon, wine, chicken stock and butter. As far as capers go, I'd expect them if I was ordering anything piccata. But according to The Palm Restaurant Cookbook, capers are a southern Italian addition not used up north. Dunno how much truth there is to that, but that's what the book says.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 9:23PM
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Another who has never heard of milk or cream in a piccatta.

I make mine exactly as described by Ruthanna. I also do the same thing for shrimp but skip the flour dredge.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 8:20AM
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Well my chicken picatta recipe comes from the Italian chef "Fabio Viviani" (I have to think he made up that name!!), who I somewhat enjoy watching but don't care for most of his ideas and recipes. He just strikes me as a fun guy, taken in small doses. He claims "picatta" just means "smashed," so you can use whatever sauce you want. His recipe, (which I linked below and is the one I make), was the kind made with mushrooms, marsala and cream. BF likes that too. But we would call that "Chicken Marsala." The stuff I made last night was the kind with lemon, broth, wine and caper sauce. It was delicious!! Thanks for the help. I didn't take a photo because I was just whipped tired last night after working 5 days to write a big paper for a class I am taking. But it was delicious! The secret was for me to not use any extra flour but just reduce the sauce and use only a little bit of lemon. I only had veg. broth and it would have been better with chicken broth but it was still very good, nice and "velvety" and "picante." I followed Giada's recipe advice and didn't smash the boneless chicken breasts, I just sliced them thin. Smashing would have been better even after I sliced them because I couldn't get them evenly thin.

Here's the definition from Italain of "picatta" from

In a context of food, for example "veal piccata" (in Italian, "piccata di vitello"), i.e. a tender veal cutlet quickly sauted in the butter, then dressed with lemon juice and parsley[+ capers sometimes], the word 'piccata' means "tasty, savoury, spicy, piquant", as this dish is tasty, thanks to lemon juice, parsley and capers.

As for its origin, the past participle "piccato('piccata' in the feminine, as it agrees with the term 'carne' or 'fettina' which are feminine in Italian) derives from the verb 'piccare' literally meaning "to wound someone with a pike, to prick, to sting" and therefore metaphorically to stimulate the senses, especially taste and the sense of smell.

The verb "piccare" , as well as the other verb "picchiare" derives from the noun "picca", meaning " pike" , i.e. the tip of a spear.

The verb "picchiare" however does not mean "to wound someone with a pike, to prick, to sting", but simply "to hit, to strike, to beat", and moreover its conjugation is different from the conjugation of "piccare", except two forms, i.e. "tu picchi"(2nd person singular ) and "noi picchiamo" (1st.person plural) in the present indicative. In this case it is the context that explains the meaning of the verb.

Finally in the best Italian dictionaries we find 2 entries for "piccata" :
1-"piccata"(feminine noun) meaning "stroke of pike"
2-"piccata"(feminine noun) meaning "veal dish".

Also, you can find "piccato"(masculine-Past participle of "piccare") which has two meanings:
1-tasty, piquant, etc.(see above)
2-touchy, irritable.

So, to conclude, American menus do not confuse "piccata" with "piquant" as the Italian term "piccata" related to veal really means "tasty, savoury, spicy, piquant".

Here is a link that might be useful: Video of Chef Fabio Viviani making chicken picatta with marsala sauce

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 11:48AM
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Apparently I have piCCata dyslexia!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 1:39PM
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beachlily z9a

I've been reading this, shaking my head. Where to go to get answers? Who to ask?

In Marcia Hazen's Italian cooking book, she doesn't use the word picatta .. simply "lemon sauce", if I'm translating that correctly. So I picked up the phone and called Pietro, chef, from Naples,Italy (have to say that because there is a Naples, FL). Asked about piccata with marsala wine. He snorted and said "That's not piccata!!" and then started on a rant. When he does that I have trouble understanding so I put hubs on the phone. What it boiled down to, is that in Pietro's opinion, marsala wine makes chicken marsala. Must have mushrooms, garlic, etc. A light lemon sauce with white wine makes picatta--no mushrooms, no cream, no marsala, just a semi-clear tart sauce. Oh he suggested using masses of capers. Doesn't surprise me, he always uses masses of capers.

I'm not sure this helps this discussion, but it does put my mind at rest.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:29AM
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I think piccata WOULD come from "picante" which would be very much more appropriate for the lemon wine caper sauce than the cream, mushroom marsala wine sauce. And "smashed" chicken would be picchata or something like that. Well I'm not a native Italian speaker nor have I had any Italian language training, just French, so I don't know. Anyway, I always thought that chef Fabio's explanation was a little off because I have never heard of the piccata description applied to any type of dish here in the US other than the lemon sauce. In fact, that lemon sauce is recommended for veal, chicken and seafood, all of which then get the term "piccata" applied to them. I suppose the same could be said for "marsala" although I'm not sure what else that sauce would be good on, flesh wise. With some tofu or fake meat crumbles it would be good with pasta as a vegetarian dish. I can't see it on fish, maybe beef, definately veal but I don't do either one of those.

Anyway, we use the term piccata to refer to the lemon caper sauce, and marsala to refer to the mushroom wine sauce and we love BOTH!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Oh I forgot to add Beachlily, thanks so much for that info and calling that chef. Totally cool! That's why I love CF so much, you learn such great things every day! You are so lucky to have some of Marcella Hazan's cookbooks!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:06AM
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