Chicken Picatta, Lightened Up

It always seemed funny to me to discuss weight loss on a blog where I offer up things like salted caramel buttercream and cannoli filled cupcakes.  I don’t have many (if any) recipes here calling for reduced-fat or “lite” ingredients.  In some cases, the recipe would be just fine if those ingredients were substituted for their full-fat counterparts, but I have learned that I don’t like the way they taste (or the other things companies add to try to trick your brain that you’re having the “real” thing).  If I don’t like the way something tastes I’m not going to feel satisfied and so I’d rather just use the full-fat cheese, or sour cream, or whole milk, or butter and factor that in to my daily eating plan.  Some of the low-fat alternatives don’t behave like the regular ingredients.  Low-fat cheese doesn’t melt the same way, fat-free half-and-half doesn’t thicken the same way, and you’ll get me to use watery butter alternatives when, well, never.  I have certain things in my diet that I have to limit for health reasons, and the things you may or may not need to limit could be very different, so absolutely do what’s best for you and the people you feed.  I find that my body (and my waistline) are happiest when I eat “real” food that satisfies me.  I’m happy with one cannoli cupcake when I can taste the real butter and the real sugar and the full-fat ricotta, and I don’t trick myself into saying “well, they’re light so I can have four.”  The real trick in my efforts toward reaching a healthy weight has been to make food that will keep me satisfied for a while, and that tastes just like it would if I didn’t have weight-loss goals on the brain.  Simple things like cutting down on the amount of oil needed to saute something, or adding in whole grains make a huge difference.

Chicken picatta usually starts as a thin chicken cutlet that is breaded and fried before being drenched in a lemon butter sauce.  By using whole wheat flour to bread the chicken, I’ve added more fiber without altering the taste at all (honestly, you can’t taste the difference in this).  Using much less oil than the amounts in traditional recipes results in less fat, but still provides that fried in olive oil flavor.  With simple swaps like this I’ve seen results while making tasty “real” food that everyone in the house loves, that’s healthier for all of us, and without feeling like something’s missing.  You can skip the flour completely and just sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, then saute or use all-purpose flour to dredge the chicken.  Either one is a fine alternative, though I did find that the whole wheat flour worked great and gave this meal great lasting power.  I served this with whole grain pasta, but I love this with mashed potatoes and any vegetable as well.

chicken picatta

Lighter Chicken Picatta


  • 4 (6 oz. each) boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 C. whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 C. finely chopped shallots
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 C.  dry white wine
  • 3/4 C. lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. drained capers


Place each piece of chicken in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/2 inch thickness using a meat mallet (or heavy skillet).

Place 1 tsp. of the flour in a small bowl and put the remaining flour in a shallow dish.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.

Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess.

Melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add 1 Tbsp. of the oil to the pan and swirl to coat.

Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm,

Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat.

Add the shallots to the pan and saute for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add the wine to the garlic and shallots and bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Cook the mixture until the liquid almost evaporates, stirring constantly.

Add 1/4 C. of the broth to the reserved 1 tsp. of flour and stir until smooth.

Add the remaining 1/2 C. of broth to the pan and bring to a boil.

Cook about 5 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.

Stir the flour and broth mixture into the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring, until slightly thick.

Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp. of butter, the lemon juice, and the capers.

To serve, place 1 piece of chicken on a plate and top with about 2 Tbsp. of the sauce.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light January 2012


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