Chicken Piccata

Although I made this recipe in the Instant Pot, it would, of course, be easily adapted to a slow cooker or oven.

Ritual is the very foundation on which we tread. It facilitates social interaction. When someone comes into our home, for instance, the first order of business, after the ritual removal of shoes, this being Canada, is to offer them something to drink.  …as though they have landed on our doorstep after an arduous journey, parched and in need of hydration. It’s just a ritual, probably left over from the days when this was, indeed, the case. It is possible to refuse hydration, but that can be tricky, bordering on the dangerous ritual ground of refusing a gift.  When our guests leave, we are obliged to see them to the door, in spite of the fact that they are perfectly capable of finding their way unassisted.   

And yes. The nuances of that gift ritual are important to understand. If a thing is wrapped with a bow and a card, it is magically transformed into a gift, with all the ritual behaviours which that entails. The recipient is obliged to be delighted, and to enthuse.  Should we give someone something unwrapped, they will be totally confused. Are we just showing it to them? Should they offer to pay for it? Is it a loan? Do we want it back?  Do we think they can’t afford one? The wrapping clarifies the whole business.  

We all understand the rules when ritual is followed. When a cashier wishes us a great day, we would be remiss not to brightly chirp, “You too!”. When someone asks us how we are, we know that the only acceptable response is “Fine. And you?”. The ritual greeting is complete at this point. They aren’t required to answer, and often don’t. 

And so the world bubbles along nicely. Until the ritual is disrupted, invariably by the next generation. Young folks may come in, keep their shoes on, and their hat, pick up a drink on the counter as they amble through the kitchen, sit on the couch and stare at their phone. Our generation, of course, tries to cling to our social rituals like burrs to a dog.  Until we don’t. Until we compromise. Adjust. Like the awkward adjustments we made as we transitioned from hand shaking to all that hugging and air kissing. We adjusted, although we may not have entirely lost a slightly startled look as strangers and casual acquaintances lunge through the barriers of our personal space. 

Consider the ritual of the recipe. In our day, a cook’s recipes were her secret cache, carefully curated and sparingly shared. Asking for “the recipe” was a compliment of the highest order and we knew when it was not too forward to ask. After the dishes were washed and dried, the cook would go to her recipe box, take out the well-worn card and a clean one, carefully copy the recipe, and hand it to her guest. It was a gift. We all had a fine collection of these cards in many handwritings. Treasures. Memories of generous hostesses, delicious meals, good times. That was then. We didn’t even notice the foundation of ritual shifting beneath our feet. When did that happen?  In the blink of an eye, a request for a recipe is met with a cheerful, I’ll send you the link!  I’ll text you! Message you!  Airdrop you! Done in an instant. Efficient. Effortless.  And yet leaving a faint hint of something valuable lost. Left behind. 

New rituals replace the old. We adjust. 

So, with that in mind,  I’ll share a link! And tell you how I modified it. A compromise between the old ways and the new. 

This recipe is for the Instant Pot, although a casual Google will easily get you the traditional version.


yield: 3-4 SERVINGS total time: 30 MINUTES prep time: 10 MINUTES cook time: 20 MINUTES

Healthy chicken piccata isn’t breaded, but it still has all the flavour of the original. Plus, it’s ready in less than 30 minutes using your pressure cooker!

1 tablespoon olive oil

1.5 – 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock 

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 jar (4 oz) capers, drained


Heat Instant Pot to Sauté and add oil. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken and add to hot Instant Pot. Brown chicken for about 4 minutes on each side and then remove to a plate.

Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly for about 1 minute or until fragrant.

Add broth, lemon juice, oregano, and basil and scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the Instant Pot. Return chicken to Instant Pot and sprinkle capers on top.

Put cover on (make sure vent is turned to “seal”).  Set Instant Pot to Manual for 10 minutes.

Once done, quick release the pressure. Use an instant read thermometer and ensure chicken has an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Serve chicken with sauce in pan.


I added the capers at the end as garnish. Instead, I added a jar of artichoke bruschetta to the pot before cooking, which I deemed to be a genius addition. 

I also thickened the sauce at the end with a bit of cornstarch slurry. Seemed a good idea at the time, and was.  And I served it on fettuccine noodles. Garnished with sliced lemons and all those capers!

This is my combination of the modern recipe sharing with a touch of personal variation to acknowledge the fading rituals of the past.  So let’s do have a hug and kiss the air!  Or maybe just shake hands. I’ll see you to the door.