For A New Take On Your Next Piccata Dish, Swap Out The Chicken With Scallops

Most people cooking at home are used to thinking of recipes in relatively certain, fixed terms, but when it comes to chicken breasts, it's good to remember that almost anything can take their place. It's not that chicken breasts are bad — it's just that they are usually used as a relatively affordable and neutral-tasting vessel for sauces, cheese, and other ingredients. They lend a pleasant texture, mild meatiness, and filling protein to plenty of recipes, they just don't bring a whole lot that is special. Don't consider that a problem, consider it an invitation to do what you will with the flavors of so many classic recipes that rely on chicken breasts. And an extremely versatile one of those recipes is chicken piccata, with a lemony, briny bite that is perfect for most kinds of seafood, and especially scallops.

The fact is, you can piccata almost anything and it will work. Piccata is acidic and salty, with depth from white wine and usually some fat from a finishing pat of butter. It has almost all the building blocks of a complete meal all by itself; it just needs a savory factor, which makes it a natural pairing with meat and fish. Scallops are also mild like chicken breasts, but they have a more distinct sweet, buttery, lightly briny taste that will add to piccata instead of just blending in. A perfectly seared scallop also has a wonderful soft, crispy textural contrast that chicken breasts can't match.

Scallops are an easy swap and perfect pairing for chicken piccata's flavors

One other nice thing that makes piccata versatile is that the sauce is built separately from the protein, so it doesn't rely much on one specific meat to develop its unique flavor. You can follow our recipe for upscale chicken piccata, and make a sauce using shallots, garlic, and capers, cooked in butter, broth, and wine, which creates a silky piccata sauce that's bursting with fresh, complex flavors, and can easily be spooned over a plate of seared scallops. Parsley is the traditional herb for piccata, and is also a favorite for seafood, where its green, peppery flavor can compliment a delicate fish.

Seared scallops also couldn't be easier to cook alongside your sauce. Just pat them dry to make sure they'll develop a nice crispy crust, season with salt and pepper, and fry them in oil for a few minutes on each side. Once you've finished your scallops with the sauce, serve them with a side of roasted greens like asparagus or brussels sprouts or with some sauteed spinach. It's just as easy of a weeknight meal as chicken piccata, but with a simple twist that will make it feel and taste that much more special.