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Crispy Chicken Piccata

I've never eaten fried chicken with pasta before. It sounds like something a teenage boy would invent to carbo-load before an ill-advised marathon (all marathons are ill-advised, in this author's opinion). It certainly didn't appeal to my personal proclivities for cooking primarily with fresh produce from the farmer's market. Have I mentioned that I shop at the farmer's market?

Well, I was wrong. Chicken piccata is not the invention of an adolescent in the throes of a growth spurt, but an Italian dish which shallow fries breaded chicken breasts and lays them gently on a bed of bright, buttery, and briny pasta noodles. Having made it myself, I have concluded that it is the best way to eat fried chicken.

This is not a 100% traditional piccata recipe. I picked it up from the inimitable Carolina Gelen, who actually made it with a katsu-style hake fillet. My local Spar didn't have any fresh fish in when I did the Big Shop, so I kept the panko bread crumbs but replaced the fish with chicken fillets as per tradition. I'm confident that this recipe would be as delicious (if not more!) with a firm, flaky fish like hake, so feel free to experiment if the spirit moves you.

Carolina's website is down right now, but you can check out her incredible recipes on Instagram or by subscribing to her Substack. When you're done drooling over those dishes, come back here to make a crispy chicken piccata with me!

What to get from the shops

As you can see from this extremely helpful and artfully composed flat lay, you'll need to pick up the following groceries from the shops:

  • Long, thin pasta (I used fettuccine, but spaghetti or linguine will also work a treat)

  • A handful of plain flour

  • About a cup of panko bread crumbs

  • One egg

  • Butter

  • Half a lemon

  • Garlic - this is optional. I forgot to add it and it didn't affect the recipe much

  • A big bunch of fresh parsley (flat-leaf parsley is superior)

  • Capers

  • Chicken breasts (not pictured)

The ingredients are likely to be sitting in your pantry already, which makes this a fabulous recipe for clearing out jars and packets that are taking up valuable cupboard space.

How to make chicken piccata

Step 1: Prep your kak

Be a friend to yourself. Just prep everything in advance so that you aren't stressed later on. I find this adage especially applicable when you are shallow-frying anything. As soon as there is more than half a centimetre of hot oil involved, I enter into a manic state which potentially endangers me and others in the kitchen. By sheer bloody miracle, I have never burned myself. The prep helps.

There are three stages of preparation for this recipe. I've loosely categorised them by food group.

Prep your fresh ingredients:

  1. Chiffonade (that means chop into very thin strips) your parsley

  2. Zest and juice your lemon half

  3. Mince your garlic, if you've remembered to use it

Don't forget to wash your parsley, ya filthy animal.

Look at that lemon zest! Let nothing in your kitchen go to waste.

Prep your dry ingredients:

  1. Toss a full handful of flour into a shallow bowl

  2. Ditto for the panko crumbs (in a separate bowl, mind you, with some cracked black pepper added in - I don't add salt because I find the panko is salty enough already)

  3. Crack and whisk a single egg into a third shallow bowl

  4. Put a pot of salted water on the boil for your pasta

Prep your meat:

Wrap the chicken fillet(s) in clingwrap by placing the fillet in the middle of the plastic and folding it over. You don't need to wrap it like a present. You'll be bashing the bejesus out of it in a minute

If you don't have a mallet on hand, you can use a rolling pin or a cast-iron pan instead.

Then, tenderise the fillet until it's much flatter and wider. Ideally, the tenderised fillet should be about 1cm thick. Use this as an opportunity to process some rage, but don't go so far as to mince the meat. If you have minced your chicken breast, you should start again (and look into anger management therapy).

Step 2: Cook your pasta

Now's a pretty good time to get everything on the stove so that you can serve it hot, all together. Once your pasta water is boiling, you can put about two tablespoons of oil in your pan on medium-high heat to get it up to temperature.

Honestly, though, you can cook this in whichever order you please. Never fret, pet. Good food is on the way.

Toss your pasta into your pot of boiling water. Lovely. Now, melt a few cubes of butter in a saucepan on low heat. When that's bubbling ever so slightly, toss in your optional garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Give it a quick stir. You can add in a few spoons of pasta water to make more sauce if you like - just add it in slowly and stir while you go to create a good emulsification. I found that the lemon juice was enough liquid for me, for the record.

When you're happy with the consistency, you can chuck in your capers and your chopped parsley in quantities that please you. The end result will look something like this:

Step 3: Bread and fry your chicken

Remember those shallow bowls? Bring 'em out, it's their time to shine. I find that creating a fuss-free assembly line is the least nerve-wracking way to fry chicken while so many other things are also on the stove and your kitchen looks like a military fallout zone. Here is the order of procedures:

Press your raw, tenderised chicken fillet into plain flour.

Dip into the egg bath.

Finally, give it a thick coat of panko crumbs.

When everything is dressed up, gently place it into your hot oil. Fry on both sides until the crumbs are golden-brown.

Tip: You can test the oil to see if it's hot enough by placing the thin end of a wooden spoon in. If bubbles gather around the spoon, you're good to go. If the oil is smoking, it's too hot and your panko crumbs will burn to charcoal.

I would err on the side of cooking on high heat, here. You don't want to risk undercooked chicken.

Immediately sprinkle the hot chicken with a pinch of flaky salt. Delicious.

Final step: Assemble and enjoy!

Right, time for all these ingredients to meet each other. Once you've coated your cooked pasta in your zesty, briny lemon and caper butter, plate it with a touch of grated parmesan. Then lay your crispy fried panko chicken breast on top.

Voila. It's crispy, savoury, salty, and bright. Mingling summery lemon and autumnal warmth from crispy, fried chicken and buttery pasta is perfect for transitional seasonal eating. We're not sure if summer is coming or going, but we are confident that this crispy chicken piccata is going straight onto the weekly recipe roster. Bon appetit!


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