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It is a translation of the French piqué (sharp, as in “piquant”), participle of piquer. Piccata is an Italian word, the feminine form of the word piccato, meaning “larded”. It is also spelled picatta or pichotta. In Italian, scaloppine refers to a thin escalope of meat, and piccata constitutes one cooking method for this cut of meat.
Traditionally, Italians prepare piccata using veal (piccata di vitello al limone) or frittura piccata, particularly in the Milanese region  swordfish (pesce spada con capperi e limone). However, the best known dish of this sort in the US uses chicken (chicken piccata).
A chicken breast is butterflied or sliced along its width. It is flattened to an even thickness with a tenderizer between two pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap. It is seasoned and dredged in flour before being browned in butter or olive oil. The sauce is made using the pan drippings. Lemon juice and white wine or chicken stock are added and reduced. Shallots or garlic can be added with capers, chopped parsley and slices of lemon. After reduction, butter is stirred in to finish the sauce.
In the United States, it is usually served with a vegetable or a starch, such as pasta, polenta, or rice. In Italy, veal piccata is a secondo and would be served after the pasta (or other starch) course.
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