Chicken piccata fo’ yo’ mama


Ian Hilton

Chicken piccata on garlic butter pasta, topped with lemon juice and parmesan. Photo by Ian Hilton, 5/6/2021.

Celebrate the moms! If you’re fortunate enough to spend time with yours this Mother’s Day, don’t stop with a measly card. All moms appreciate being appreciated, and a surefire way to impress is with food.

The obvious recipe is quiche, but let’s move beyond brunch and really wow the woman with dinner. Chicken, pasta, butter sauce, capers and white wine is a combination difficult to resist, especially when you save a few glasses for  mama while she puts her feet up.

I don’t think a history lesson is necessary; we all know why Mother’s Day is important.

Let’s cook.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4


Kitchen knife

Cutting board

Plate for flouring the chicken

Something to pound the chicken — I used the bottom of a pint glass; as long as it’s flat it’ll work

Large skillet

Measuring cup

Measuring spoons

Wooden spoon


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut butterfly-style (see note) and pounded to ½ inch thickness (see note)

Salt, pepper and paprika to season

All-purpose flour for dredging, about ½ cup

2-3 tablespoons of oil — I used coconut oil because it’s healthier

2 tablespoons of capers, drained

1 cup of dry white wine

½ cup of fresh lemon juice

½ cup of water

5-6 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter cut into half-tablespoon slices (see note)

3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley

Lemon for squeezing


Start by determining your side dish. I used pasta, but rice, couscous or veggie noodles are all acceptable; you’ll have to work around your side dish as you prepare and cook the chicken and sauce.

Get all your ingredients measured and cut. Once this recipe starts, it goes quickly.

Season each side of the four chicken pieces with salt, pepper and paprika. If you want it a little spicier, substitute cayenne for the paprika.

Put the flour on a plate and coat both sides of the breast halves.

Put the oil in the pan and heat on medium-high. When the oil gets hot enough and starts shimmering, gently place two of the breast halves in and lower the heat to medium. If you have a grease-splatter screen, now’s the time to use it.

After five minutes, flip the breast halves — again, gently — and cook for another five minutes.

Remove the halves, add more oil if necessary, and repeat for the remaining two pieces. Set them aside as well.

With the pan still on medium, add the capers. With a fork or wooden spoon, smash about half of them to enhance the flavor. Cook for about 30 seconds.

Add the wine and reduce the amount by half, stirring regularly and scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. This should take about two minutes.

Add lemon juice and water, then butter.

Turn the heat to low and cook until the butter melts. Add the parsley.

Return the chicken to the pan to reheat for a minute or two. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let it set for about five minutes.

Place the chicken on your side dish and disperse the butter mixture evenly, squeezing some extra lemon juice to top it off. Repeat for all chicken pieces, ensuring that all plates get equal amounts of capers.


Slicey-dicey: To butterfly the chicken, secure the top of the breast with your hand and start from the thicker side. You’ll have to really get down to eye-level with the breast, like you’re lining up a shot with a pool cue. Use shallow cuts to get through it, especially if this is a new technique to you.

Pound for pound: When pounding the chicken, cover it with some kind of plastic. I use plastic wrap, but I’ve seen people use resealable bags as well. The objective is to not launch raw chicken particles into your cooking area. The end result should be chicken breast halves that are about ½ inch in thickness. Don’t be overzealous — steady, firm controlled strikes will get the job done without splitting the breasts apart or creating holes.

Butter believe it: If you want a thicker sauce, use more butter. I recommend using unsalted butter because of the salt on the chicken and the saltiness of the capers. Remember, you can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away. The butter, after you slice it, should be kept in the refrigerator until it’s ready to use. Spread the pieces across the pan so they melt evenly.

Ian Hilton can be reached at [email protected].

Tags: Mother’s Day, chicken piccata, capers, wine, butter