Piccata is an uncomplicated sauce with no split-second timing, fussiness or worrying that the sauce will separate later as Hollandaise and bearnaise sauce sometimes do. Even if you're a beginning cook, piccata is a sauce you can successfully make.
The sauce contains butter, white wine or vermouth and lemon juice. Sometimes, capers are added as is lemon zest to amp up the lemon flavor. Lemon thyme or lemon balm leaves garnish dishes made with piccata sauce for the same reason. The herbs could be used in the sauce as well, although the classic recipe doesn't call for them.
Veal or chicken cutlets are pounded so they're between 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick. The thin cutlets cook quickly. Since veal is expensive, flattening the veal cutlet makes it look like a bigger serving. Dredge the cutlets through flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Don't skip this step. The flour crisps the cutlet but it also thickens the piccata sauce. When the cutlets are cooked, remove from the pan. Add 4 tbsp. of butter to the pan and let it foam on medium heat. Add 1 cup of white wine and the juice of two lemons, whisking as you do so. If you don't have a whisk, use a fork and rapidly stir the sauce as it cooks for a minute or two. The sauce will thicken slightly. Return the cutlets to the pan to heat through.
Pasta or Rice
Piccata sauce bathes pasta in lemony sauce. Serve the pasta with the cutlets and spoon the sauce over both. You might consider increasing the ingredients for the sauce by half so you have enough for cutlets and pasta. Fresh spring peas cut through the richness of the sauce and go well with veal. Give the peas a squeeze of lemon juice. Another alternative is to serve crunchy bread with the entrée or serve the cutlets on top of thick slices of toast to absorb the sauce.
Piccata sauce is delicately flavored. While you might think that it would go well with beef tenderloin, or other steaks, its flavor is lost. Additionally, steaks served rare to medium will bleed into the piccata sauce. This is a sauce that depends on deglazing the pan the veal or chicken has cooked in for its flavor, otherwise it's a lemon and wine sauce.
- "The Art of Cooking, Preparing and Presenting Fine Food"; Arnold Zabat; 1984
- "The Cooking of Italy"; Waverly Root; 1968
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