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Giada's Essential Italian Dishes: Chicken Piccata

Everything you need to know to master the lemon-bright, lightning-quick chicken cutlets.


Every cuisine has its core recipes, the fundamental dishes and techniques that set it apart from the rest of the world. I'm breaking down my 10 essential Italian dishes, sharing everything you need to know to master them and become a superstar Italian cook.

What It Is: Though it's believed to have originated in Milan (the home of chicken and veal milanese, a sauce-less breaded, fried cutlet) and was known as frittura piccata, chicken piccata became a true staple in Italian-American cooking beginning in the 1930s. The simple preparation, adapted from the commonly used veal to chicken breasts, which were more widely available in the U.S., became a fast favorite because it take just a few simple ingredients to come together for a truly elegant result. 
Why I Love It: It's all about the lemon! The bold bright, briny sauce, rich with butter and sharp with capers and lemon juice, elevates plain-jane chicken breasts into something beautiful - and fast, too. There's no dish that give you more bang for your buck than chicken piccata, which, from start to finish, takes just about the same amount of time it takes to boil pasta.
How It's Done: For a silky smooth sauce, coat your chicken pieces lightly and evenly in flour, double checking for clumps or naked spots. (Dry pockets of flour will fall off and burn during cooking, making your sauce bitter.) Browning the chicken pieces is a crucial first step, getting a head start on cooking them through and contributing toasty, caramelized notes to the final dish. 
Build your sauce in the same pan, making sure to scrape up the brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan. That's where the flavor lives! Then, add the chicken pieces back in to finish cooking, giving the chicken the opportunity to soak up some of that gorgeous lemony goodness. While they cook, the floury coating gives body to the sauce. 

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