Lemony, bright chicken piccata with leeks brings a fresh elegance to the standard chicken dinner. I pound the lean chicken breast thin, dredge it in seasoned flour, and brown it on the stove. Small bits of chicken and flour stick to the pan (called ‘fond’) and deeply flavor the sauce. My recipe includes a hefty dose of sautéed leeks because they taste great and satisfy my daily vegetable quota. Serve with brown rice or egg noodles for a crowd pleasing supper.
Growing up in an Iranian household left me unaware of many non-Persian dishes until much later in life. We didn’t eat at restaurants often and I wasn’t even introduced to meatloaf until I was a full blown adult. This lack of early indoctrination to non-Iranian cuisine has actually been a benefit when it comes to recipe development. Take a dish like meatloaf or chicken piccata for instance; I have no preconceived notion of how they should be cooked or how they should taste. Vaguely familiar with the dish, I begin my in depth research and taste testing process. When I’m ready to create my own version of the dish I’m unencumbered by and unaware of the rules.
In the case of chicken piccata, I add leeks because they pair well with the other ingredients and I like the way they taste. I season the flour with onion powder because my mom taught me to never cook chicken without onions (which get rid of raw chicken flavor). I just lightly garnish the sauce with butter instead of drowning the whole thing with heavy cream.
My version of chicken piccata with leeks honors the original with a few tiny twists of my own. I hope you enjoy the simple touches that make this chicken piccata unique and delicious. Happy cooking!
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tb Capers
1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 cup water or low sodium chicken broth (I prefer water in this recipe because it provides a cleaner canvas for the other flavors to shine)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ lemon juice, about 1 tablespoon juice
Fresh cracked black pepper
In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, onion powder, and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Place a chicken breast on a cutting board. Place your non-knife hand on top of the breast to keep the poultry in place. Holding a kitchen knife (in your opposite hand) with the blade parallel to the cutting board. Cut the chicken horizontally into two thin cutlets.
Lightly pound each chicken cutlet in between two pieces of plastic wrap until you achieve an even thickness (about ½ inch thick).
Season the chicken breasts on both sides (using about 1 teaspoon of salt).
Working with one chicken breast at a time, dredge both sides of the cutlet in flour and shake off the excess.
Place the flour coated chicken cutlets on a plate while you prepare the oil.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sautée pan over medium heat.
Add the chicken breasts to the pan in a single layer (do this in batches if necessary). Cook the chicken until golden brown on both sides but not necessarily cooked through, 4-6 minutes per side.
If the pan gets too dry at any point, add a splash of olive oil.
Transfer the browned chicken to a plate.
Add the leeks to the now empty sautée pan along with a splash of water to loosen up any bits of chicken and flour stuck to the pan.
Cook until the leeks are softened, starting to brown, and the liquid has evaporated, 3-5 minutes.
Add the garlic and thyme to the pan. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
Add the capers, white wine, and water to the pan, stir to combine with the leeks.
Nestle the browned chicken pieces back into the sauce, along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate.
Bring the chicken and sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce has thickened, 30 minutes.
Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean serving plate.
Add the butter to the sauce, stir until the butter is melted and combined.
Add the fresh lemon juice to the sauce. Taste the sauce and add more lemon juice or salt if necessary.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken, being sure to scoop up all the leeks and capers.
Garnish with more capers, some lemon wedges, and a few sprigs of thyme.
Serve with rice (I like to use brown rice) or cooked egg noodles or pappardelle pasta.