A twist of classic chicken piccata based on Chinese lemon chicken. The chicken breast is pan fried until crispy on the surface and tender inside. It is then served with a savory, sweet, and tart sauce that is loaded with garlic.
Cooking in my American kitchen, my biggest problem is that I don’t have powerful stove to cook proper stir fry. I do own a portable gas burner. But it’s quite a bit trouble pulling it out and dragging my cast iron wok around just to fix a quick lunch. Sometimes I cook stir fries using a flat skillet, so I have large enough surface to get the pan heat up properly on electric stove. On the other hand, it is not very easy to stir the food without spilling on the counter. So I end up pan frying instead of stir-frying the food most of the time.
Then I realized, why not just do the proper pan fry instead of stir fry after all? When cooking chicken piccata the other day, I realized the characters of the dish quite similar to Chinese lemon chicken. I decided to use Chinese seasoning to cook this classic Italian dish.
The reasons I love this dish more than traditional lemon chicken stir fry are:
- You save the time of cutting chicken.
- It creates super crispy chicken with tender texture, even using an electric stove.
- The cooking process is less intimidating than wok cooking.
To create a quick weekday meal, you could start the rice (on stove or in the rice cooker). Blanch vegetables such as bok choy and broccoli, or roast some vegetables as a side. Then you can finish the whole meal in 30 minutes.
How to cook tender and juicy chicken breast
There are a few ways to cook chicken breast on a stovetop. They all create very good result.
(1) Some of the chicken piccata recipes butterfly the chicken breast and then pound it to a thin piece. This is a great way to tenderize chicken breast and allow it to cook evenly and fast on stove top.
(2) Butterfly or slice the chicken breast into 3 to 4 pieces without pounding. It works well on smaller size chicken breast. I used this method when testing the recipe (see picture below).
(3) Use a whole chicken breast if the size it on the smaller side. It works especially well for skin-on boneless breast.
I found the first method takes longer time to prepare but easier to cook. Even if the chicken is slightly overcooked, the texture won’t become too tough. The second method is my personally favorite. It eliminates the pounding process. As long as you heat up your pan very well and keep the cooking time short, you will get very good result.
However in this recipe I chose to use the third method. I’ve got beautiful free-range grass-fed chicken from Butcher Box. The chicken breasts are fresh, thin, and firm. It’s a bit wasteful to cut them to smaller pieces and destroy the skin, so I left them intact before cooking.
To cook a whole chicken breast on the stove top is much easier (and faster) than you think.
- You can use almost any skillet. Stainless steel, carbon steel, cast iron, or nonstick all work. Just note, since this recipe uses acid, it will slightly damage seasonings of carbon steel and cast iron pan.
- Heat the pan really hot over a medium or medium high heat to make sure it heats up evenly. If using a nonstick pan, add oil first then heat up. In this case, the chicken won’t turn out as crispy.
- Add oil and swirl to coat the skillet. It’s ready to cook when the oil is just starting to smoke.
- Brown both sides of the chicken, 2 to 4 minutes per side.
- Turn to medium low heat and cover. It will take another 2 to 4 minutes to finish up.
- To test if it is done, poke the chicken with fork or a skewer. It’s done if the juice runs clear. It is faster this way than using a thermometer.
If you butterfly the chicken, the cooking process will be very similar only without the cover and steaming process.
Once you’ve nailed the pan fried chicken breast you’ve done 80% of the work.
I prepared extra sauce in this recipe, so you can serve it with rice and blanched (or roasted) vegetables too.
Normally I’d pair a dry white wine with chicken dish. But since I used a rich sauce in this recipe, a rose or a light red works great too.
I hope you enjoy!
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Every time I’ve cooked with the meat from Butcher Box,I’ve been able to create beautiful meals so easily. When you’re using quality cuts, you don’t need to season it to death because the meat itself is packed with flavor. The meat is safer and healthier, too. If quality matters to you, check out Butcher Box meat subscription. They curate high-quality grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and heritage breed pork from small farms across the US; they pack various cuts into a box, along with beautiful recipes cards, and deliver to your door on a monthly basis. I think you’ll dig it!
- 2 chicken boneless breast
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 and 1/2 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari for gluten-free
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or honey)
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (yield about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons finely sliced green onion for garnish
- Season both sides of chicken breast with salt and pepper. (*footnote 1)
- Whisk all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
- Combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water. Mix well and set aside.
- Heat a large large skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl the pan to coat the skillet with oil. When the oil is just about to smoke it’s ready to cook. Add chicken and cook without moving until the bottom side turns golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn to medium low heat and cover. Let steam for 2 to 4 minutes until the juice runs clear if poking with a skewer. Check once in between and flip chicken if the bottom side turns too brown. Transfer to a plate immediately. Remove the skillet from stove once done cooking to let cool off for a bit.
- Cover chicken loosely with aluminum foil. Tear the top of the foil into a 2-inch long gap to let steam out, so the chicken will remain crispy.
- To cook the sauce, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and garlic into the same skillet and cook over medium heat until fragrant. Pour Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry) to deglaze the pan. Quickly use a spatula to release any brown bits stuck to the pan.
- Stir the sauce again to mix well, pour into the pan. Let cook until it reduces to half.
- Now return any dripped chicken juices from the plate with cooked chicken breast by tilting it with one hand while the other hand holds the aluminum foil.
- Add butter. Keep stirring until the butter melts.
- Stir the cornstarch slurry again to mix well. Pour into the pan and stir until the sauce thickens.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with green onion, and serve immediately.
- If you need to serve the dish later, keep the sauce on stove with lowest heat. If the sauce starts to get to thick, add a bit water or chicken stock to thin it out.
- Serve over brown rice with blanched or roasted vegetables.
The nutrition facts are calculated based on 1 of the 2 servings generated by this recipe.
Full disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, but I did receive the box of meat from Butcher Box to cook this dish. All opinions are entirely my own.