On Monday night I cooked a big deal meal. Not a milestone in an event kind of way. I haven’t hit 100 posts yet, and it’s not quite my year anniversary, but I made a meal that took me back to my early days of cooking.

Chicken Piccata was the first meal I ever made. It was terrible. The chicken was cooked more than chicken should ever be cooked and it simmered in a lemon broth for so long that it was just plain bitter instead of pleasantly lemony. The parsley was dried parsley and desperately clung on to the overly dampened chicken. And yet, my family- they are such good sports- they still ate it.

Chicken Piccata is a simple meal. It sounded simple enough to make, and it should have been, but I was so clueless that I botched it at every direction. So when I found a recipe for it in The Barefoot Contessa at Home, I was scared, but I dared to give it another attempt. It was a different preparation back from the last time I prepared it, so I was hopeful. I also like to think I’ve come a long way since I started cooking.

Chicken Piccata
from the Barefoot Contessa

4 split boneless, skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
2 extra large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups seasoned dried bread crumbs
good olive oil  (Ina is always picky about her products!)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine
sliced lemon, for serving
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound it out to a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper on a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the eggs and 1 tablespoon water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread-crumb mixtures.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add 2 chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side until browned.  Place them on the sheet pan while you cook the rest of the chicken. Heat more olive oil in the saute pan and cook the second 2 chicken breasts. Place them on the same sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 t0 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the sauté pan with a dry paper towel. On the medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, white wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves. Serve one chicken breast on each plate, spoon on the sauce, and serve with sliced lemon and a sprinkling of parsley.

The Perfect Chicken Piccata

The dish came out perfectly. Simple to make and a very simple taste. Lots of fresh lemon and parsley, and perfectly seasoned. I did not have dry white wine, so I substituted some chicken broth, which I often do since I don’t keep my wine rack stacked full.

I accompanied the dish with one of my favorite side dish recipes that I heard about from the Rachael Ray show a year or two ago. Take a bunch of asparagus and a few handfuls of green beans. Wash and trip the vegetables. Spread on a baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of one lemon, then slice the lemons into wedges and lay on top of the vegetables. Place in an oven pre-heated to 350F. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes until tender, but still holding a bright color.  Simple and delicious!

This meal was a huge hit with lots of fresh flavors. It’s a great simple week night meal, or can be used as a fancier weekend dinner. Any variety of side dishes will compliment this chicken well, or serve over some pasta with an olive oil and garlic sauce.