As with any old recipe, there are numerous theories as to how the dish came to be named. The one I subscribe to claims it's an Italian adaptation of the French word "piquer," which means to prick or poke with something sharp. This makes absolutely no sense, until you taste it.
The "to prick" is apparently a metaphor for the sharp, intensely flavored sauce. Thanks to lots of lemon, capers, and wine, this sauce is about as subtle as a right hook (apologies to non-boxing fans for the reference).
Here, I've demonstrated a very basic version of a recipe that begs for variation. I'll sometimes add minced shallots, or garlic; sometimes I'll use wine, other times just straight lemon. Italian parsley is wonderful as the finishing herb, but switching that out for tarragon or basil will also bring much pleasure.
One note about the chicken: I like to use larger breasts, pounded to about 1/2-inch thick. If you are using small 6-oz chicken breasts, there's no need to pound out. Most versions I've seen call for the meat to be pounded extremely thin, but I believe this comes from the fact that the original recipe used thin veal medallions, aka scaloppini.
At home we have the luxury of a few extra minutes, and I think the slightly thicker chicken gives you a little nicer bite. Anyway, I hope this post "piques" your interest, and you give this quick and delicious recipe a try!
Chicken Piccata Ingredients:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
salt and fresh ground black pepper as needed
cayenne to taste
all-purpose flour for dredging
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon capers, drained (tip: for more intense flavor, mince 1 teaspoon of the capers, leaving the rest whole)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water or chicken stock
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/4-in slices
2 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped