Monday, September 2, 2013

Lemon Chicken

Pounded chicken tenderloin ready to be dredged in flour, salt and pepper.

Sauteing chicken tenderloins.

Lemon slices and capers sautéing in butter.

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken with Linguini

Several years ago my friend Cynthia and I went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant or what she ordered. What I do remember is the simple but delicious dish I ordered.

As soon as I tasted my food that night I fell in love with the simplicity and taste of this dish. I had to have it again! Armed with just a memory of how it tasted I set about to recreate it. This has since become one of my daughter’s favorite.


Lemon Chicken with Linguini


2 ½ lbs chicken tenderloins
2 C flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ - ½ C olive oil
5 tablespoons butter, divided
3 lemons, sliced cross-wise into ¼” discs, divided
2 tablespoons capers
½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 lb linguini cooked according to package directions, reserving 1 cup of cooking water
¼ C minced Italian parsley (optional)


1. Wash chicken tenderloins then pat dry. Place 3 inside a plastic bag. Place plastic bag on top of chopping board. Gently pound tenderloins with a rolling pin or small frying pan until they are ¼” thick. Be careful to keep them intact. Continue with the rest of the tenderloins.

2. Heat oil in skillet on medium heat.

3. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge tenderloins in the flour and shake off excess. Saute tenderloins until they are pale to golden brown. Continue to saute in batches and set aside.

4. In same skillet, add 2 tablespoons butter and sauté half of the lemon slices and half of the capers, about 3 minutes. Using wooden spoon gently mash lemon pulp from the slices to express juice. Add cooked tenderloins and stir gently to coat, about 3 minutes. Transfer to platter and keep them warm.

5. Wipe skillet with a paper towel then add garlic, remaining butter, lemon slices and capers. Saute about 3 minutes, gently mashing lemon pulp to express juice. Add cooked pasta and gently toss to coat. Add ¾ cup pasta cooking water to create a thin sauce. Add more if pasta seems dry or if you want more sauce. Toss to coat again.

6. Serve pasta and chicken tenderloins together. Garnish with minced Italian parsley.


I use chicken tenderloins because it is more delicate and easier to pound. That said, care is needed from pounding too hard. We are trying to make a chicken cutlet, not chicken tenders! Remember, the meat must remain intact. 

“Cooking water” refers to the water the pasta is cooking in. When the pasta has finished cooking, reserve a cup of the water and set aside. And then drain the pasta into a colander. Why? The cooking water contains starch and salt (provided you added salt in the first place, and which is highly recommended). This cooking water will help to emulsify and bind your sauce, or help to thin your sauce. In our Lemon Chicken dish, the cooking water will emulsify our sauce by binding with the oil and butter to create a silky coating for the pasta. It is better than plain water because it contains starch which acts as a thickener. You may use any kind of pasta you want.

Notice that I did not say to add salt to the dish. This is because there is salt in the flour mixture, salt in the butter, lots of salt in the capers, and salt in the cooking water. Of course you may add salt if you wish.

Speaking of capers, what are capers? According to Huffington Post, tiny capers are picked from a shrub-like bush (Capparis spinosa), long before the buds ever flower. The capers are then dried in the sun and later brined or packed in salt. Sometimes capers are allowed to mature to a fruit about the size of an olive. These are sold as caper berries and are brined to be eaten like pickles or olives. It's quite common to see them included in an antipasti platter. Capers aren't new to the culinary scene -- they've actually been around since ancient times. They're grown in parts of Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean region, including north Africa, southern Europe and Turkey. Capers are also grown in California.

Why add butter to oil? Simply because it adds luxuriousness to the dish. 

What restaurant dish have you recreated at home?


  1. I LOVE chicken piccata! And this recipe sounds easy. I love the idea of using chicken tenders instead of a breast. It's on my menu this week. Great post!

  2. Hi Marie,

    I used chicken tenderloins which is attached to the chicken breast. I am able to get just the tenderloins in my grocery store (Tastybird brand). You may also use breasts if you can't get tenderloins.



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