Chicken piccata is an Italian classic. It’s a dish where chicken breasts are pounded flat, lightly breaded, and cooked in a combo of lemon juice, butter, and capers. The result manages to walk the perfect line between richness and lightness — a dish equally welcome on the first sunny days of spring and in the depths of winter. But when recipe developer Erin Johnson of Probably in the Kitchen looked at Giada De Laurentiis‘ recipe, she decided that the zesty sauce would be incredibly tasty on fish, and we’re totally here for it.
"A flaky white fish is often a good substitute for chicken," she says, noting that while she went for tilapia, flounder or cod would be excellent as well in this recipe. Even salmon, with a fattier texture and more assertive flavor, could be a fun guest star in this dish.
The health benefits of fish cannot be denied. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish is excellent for improved heart health and brain function. And, of course, it’s absolutely delicious! So, let’s get into how you can prepare Giada’s chicken piccata with a twist in your own kitchen.
What did we change?
The major change Johnson made to Giada De Laurentiis’ chicken piccata recipe is, of course, to use fish in place of the chicken breasts. But, that’s not the only modification Johnson made to the original. "I do not dredge the fish in flour before I cook it," she says, noting that her decision stems from her belief that "this adds an unnecessary heaviness to the otherwise delicate fish."
She continues to say, "It is also a personal preference. I prefer grilled or broiled fish to fried." Steering clear of flour doesn’t just make the dish lighter — it also makes the recipe gluten-free. That being said, Johnson notes, "You can absolutely do that if you’d like to have a crust on the fish."
Gather the ingredients to prepare Giada’s chicken piccata with a twist
To make Giada’s chicken piccata with a twist, you’ll need tilapia — two fillets of about 4 to 6 ounces each should be enough for two servings. Tilapia is apparently one of the top eaten seafoods in America. It’s a fish that thrives on a vegetarian diet and isn’t bothered by an overcrowded environment, which makes it a prime farming fish (via Healthline). That being said, make the extra effort to seek out sustainably farmed tilapia. (Seafood Watch is a great resource for this.) The planet will thank you!
To make that luscious piccata sauce, you’ll rely on both butter and olive oil, as well as lemon juice, chicken stock, capers, and fresh parsley. This amount of sauce, Johnson notes, is enough for up to four fish fillets, but it’s just as tasty spooned over your side dish of choice.
Cook the tilapia
This recipe goes fast, and it all begins with the fish. Start by heating 2 of the 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, and cook the tilapia for about four minutes per side, or until flaky. Take care with this step, as tilapia is a delicate fish that can be difficult to turn in one piece, especially as compared to the chicken called for in Giada’s original chicken piccata recipe.
"You do have to be a bit more careful flipping and transferring fish," Johnson notes. Use a fish spatula to make your life easier, but don’t worry too much about the fish’s appearance. According to Johnson, "The sauce is forgiving and covers any breaks."
Make the delicious piccata sauce
Once the tilapia has been cooked, it’s time to make the sauce. In the same pan you used to cook the fish, melt the butter, and then add the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and stock. Use a wooden spoon to bring up the "fond," which is all of the lovely caramelized bits at the bottom of the pan that add even more flavor to the sauce. Cook for five minutes, or until the sauce has come together and the liquid has reduced somewhat.
Serve Giada’s chicken piccata with a twist
Once the sauce has come together, it’s time to stir in the capers, which don’t need to be cooked so much as just heated through. Stir them in, and you’re done. It’s finally time to enjoy.
Of course, you cannot go wrong by serving up this mouthwatering dish with a starchy side. For Johnson, the dish goes so well with a side of potatoes. "Roasted or mashed are personal favorites," she says.
That being said, she notes that it would also be divine to serve this with pasta, which would soak up that lemon butter sauce wonderfully. Either way, top with freshly chopped parsley, and enjoy!