This simple, lemon-sauced dish screams “special occasion”
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you may be looking for a festive main dish. Preferably one that’s impressive, but still easy to prepare. A piccata made with scaloppine is just the thing.
You could use veal scaloppine, of course. But turkey and chicken have plenty of flavor—and they cost a lot less. Plus, your supermarket’s meat case probably stocks pieces of turkey breast already sliced into “scaloppine” (making this dish even easier to prepare).
So if you’re still pondering your Valentine’s Day menu, fret no further. You rang—turkey piccata answered.
Recipe: Turkey (or Chicken) Piccata
I like to make this dish using scaloppine cut from turkey breasts, because turkey has a bit more flavor than chicken; it also remains moist when cooked quickly. But it’s easy to substitute chicken (or a meat of your choice—see the Notes for details).
To ensure speedy cooking, I like to use turkey scaloppine that’s no more than ¼ inch thick. Usually the scaloppine I buy in the supermarket is a bit thicker than this, so I just pound it thinner (I place it between two sheets of plastic wrap and hammer it with a meat pounder). If you don’t have a meat pounder, any heavy blunt object will work—in a pinch, even the bottom of a heavy frying pan.
This recipe is simple, but it does have a few steps. First, you need to sauté the scaloppine quickly. Then place the scaloppine in the oven for a few minutes (to keep them warm while you prepare a quick pan sauce). When the sauce is ready, quickly swirl each scaloppine through the sauce to warm and coat it. And that’s it—you’re ready to plate and serve.
My version of Turkey/Chicken Piccata combines bits and pieces of various recipes I’ve used over the years. My two favorite recipes for this dish come from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen.
Prep time for this dish is no more than 10 minutes, with cooking time an additional 15 minutes or so. This recipe serves 4, but it’s easy to scale up or down to the number of servings you need.
Leftovers keep OK for a few days if refrigerated—but they don’t taste as good as when freshly cooked.
- 8 ~3-ounce boneless, skinless turkey scaloppine or cutlets cut from the breast (about 6 ounces per serving; see Notes for substitutions)
- ~1 cup flour, spread on a plate
- salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt; maybe half that if using regular table salt)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (you may need a bit more; see Step 5)
- 1 small shallot, diced finely
- 1 cup chicken or turkey stock
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed (optional)
- 2 - 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
- lemon rounds or twists for garnish (optional)
- additional chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Once you start cooking, things go fairly quickly—so assemble all ingredients and do all prep work (dicing shallots, squeezing lemons, and so forth) ahead of time.
- If the turkey scaloppine/cutlets are thicker than ¼ inch, pound them thinner: Place each piece of turkey between 2 sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper, and whack them with a meat pounder until they’re ¼ inch thick.
- Place a large frying pan (10” or larger, preferably one made of stainless steel) on medium stovetop heat.
- While the frying pan is heating, dump the flour onto a plate, add the salt and pepper, and mix together. Dredge each piece of turkey in the flour until well coated. Shake off excess flour, and set the pieces of turkey aside. (If you prefer, you can dredge each scaloppine in the flour right before adding to the hot fat in Step 5. In fact that's how I usually do it.)
- When the frying pan is hot, add the olive oil and heat it. When the oil is hot (it’ll shimmer—this takes about 15 seconds), add as many pieces of turkey as will fit comfortably in the frying pan. Do not crowd the pieces (otherwise they’ll steam rather than sauté). Cook the turkey pieces until the first side is brown (about 3 minutes). Then flip all the pieces and cook the second side for another 2 minutes. Remove the turkey pieces from the frying pan and place them on a heatproof plate or pan lined with paper towels; place the pan in the oven to keep the scaloppine warm. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining turkey pieces, adding more oil to the frying pan if necessary.
- When all the turkey pieces have been sautéd, pour the fat out of the frying pan; wipe off any residual fat with paper towels. Add the diced shallot to the frying pan and cook it on medium for 1 minute. Then add the turkey or chicken stock and the capers, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and cook until the stock has been reduced by about half.
- When the stock has reduced, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and the two tablespoons of chopped parsley, and stir to incorporate. Taste, and add another tablespoon of lemon juice if you want a more pronounced citrus flavor (optional). Adjust seasoning, and add 1 tablespoon of butter to enrich the sauce if you wish.
- Remove the turkey pieces from the oven. Swirl each turkey piece in the pan sauce to warm it (and to coat it with sauce). Place 2 pieces of turkey on each serving plate. Pour the remaining sauce over the turkey pieces, and garnish each plate with a lemon round or twist and/or additional chopped parsley (optional). Serve.
- I often add half a cup of white wine or dry vermouth in Step 6 after I've added the shallot. I scrape up those browned bits on the bottom of the pan, then add the chicken stock and capers, and let it all cook until it's reduced. The wine adds some nice flavor, but it's optional.
- I like to use a stainless steel frying pan for sautéing the scaloppine because it helps create a nice, brown crust. With a nonstick skillet, the meat won't brown as well.
- If you prefer to substitute chicken in this dish, use 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each about 6 ounces in size. Pound the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper until they are ¼ inch thin. (It’s sometimes easier to butterfly the chicken breasts and cut them into two pieces before pounding.) You can ask your butcher to do this for you.
- You can use veal scaloppine for this dish, although it’s pricey and not as flavorful as turkey (but it’s more tender, and certainly more traditional). Butchers often cut veal into scaloppine pieces that weight 2 or 3 ounces each; you need about 6 ounces of meat per serving, so you’ll want to use two or three veal scaloppine per person, depending on the size.
- You could also use pork scaloppine if you wish. You’ll need slices of pork tenderloin cut into 3-ounce portions, and pounded thin.
- I like piccata to be on the tart side, so I always use 3 tablespoons of lemon juice—but you may prefer less.
- Capers add a pleasantly sharp note to this dish. But they’re not traditional—omit them if you want.
- Adding a pat of butter to the sauce enriches it (and creates a nice sheen). Omit the butter if you want, but you’ll be missing out on some flavor.
- BTW, when I make this dish for two—as I often do—I use half the quantity of meat, but make the same amount of sauce. That means I always wind up with a bit too much sauce, but it’s so good I don’t mind.
- I like to serve piccata with sautéd potatoes and a dark-green veggie. But any side dish that sounds good to you probably will be.
Restaurant Quality at Home
“This dish brings back memories,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, taking a bite. “Remember years ago, when we were living in Kansas City? That’s where we learned to love Chicken Piccata.”
“Yes, I used to travel during the week for work, but I was always home in time for dinner on Friday night,” I said. “We often went out to that restaurant we liked to celebrate the start of the weekend. And ordered their great Chicken Piccata.”
“I’m so glad you no longer have to travel for work,” said Mrs K R. “Wonder if that restaurant is still there?”
“That was a long time ago,” I said. “But we could probably find another restaurant that serves piccata, if we want to enjoy some nostalgia.”
“No need,” said Mrs K R. “We’re here, the kitchen is here. And you make a mean piccata. Besides, it’s more romantic with just the two of us, n’est-ce pas?”
“True, and the Boca Negra Cake you made for dessert is better than anything we’d get at a restaurant,” I said. “I’d say we have a five-star establishment right here.”
“Welcome to Café Kitchen Riffs,” said Mrs K R. “A table for two, right this way! And happy Valentine’s Day, mon cher.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Boca Negra Cake
Hungarian Beef Paprika Stew
Easy Tandoori Chicken
Pink Lady Cocktail
Or check out the index for more