Piccata Sauce for Grilled Veal, Chicken, or Pork
This is a simple Tuesday night sauce that produces Sunday night food. Originally from Italy and served on veal, it is well suited for chicken and pork chops. I'm not too fond of this sauce on beef or lamb. The classic piccata is cooked indoors in a skillet, and the sauce is called a pan sauce because it includes the brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan, but the recipe is a snap to make on the grill. I'll give you the grilled version first, and then the classic pan version. And for all the traditionalists chefs out there, I know my sauce is a bit heavier and richer than the textbook version, but I think it is needed to stand up to the big bold flavors of barbecue.
Piccata Sauce Recipe
Makes. 2 servings
About the sherry. My recipe calls for cream sherry, a sweet "fortified" wine that has had brandy added. An amontillado (medium dry) sherry, or oloroso sherry will work fine. Malmsey Madeira, another fortified wine is also good, but bual Madiera is actually my fave. Sercial and verdelho Madeira are dry, so if you use them you might want to add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Fino sherry will work with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
About the dry white wine. I always have a jug of cheap dry white like Mondavi Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc or Yellow Tail Chardonnay around for guzzling and cooking. Occasionally I pick up old, oxidized whites in the closeout bin just for this kind of sauce. The aren't good drinking, but make fine cooking wines.
About the lemon juice. Be precise when measuring the lemon juice. A bit too much and it will make the veins in your neck pop out. Get a fresh lemon if you can.
Optional garnish. When you're done you can garnish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and a thin slice of lemon.
Serve with. Serve with a grain that will sop up the extra sauce and a simple veggie. Try brown rice, couscous, barley, or bulgur wheat with grilled asparagus or squash. A big dry white, like a California Chardonnay.
3) While the meat is grilling, you can make the sauce on a burner indoors or out. In a small sauce pan melt the butter on low, then whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, over medium until all the flour is dissolved and starts to turn tan. Wait til it turns color, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and lemon juice and crank it to high. Cook the sauce, whisking every 2 minutes or so. Reduce the total volume of the sauce in half.
4) Just before the meat is done, add the capers to the sauce. Don't add them too early or they will disintegrate. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of water. Spoon a pool of the sauce on each dinner plate, then remove the meat from the grill and lay it on top of the sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley and a lemon slice. If there's extra sauce, put it on the rice.
The Classic Indoor Chicken Piccata Recipe
Pan sauces are wonderful and complex because the get flavor from the browned meat that sticks to the bottom of the pan. Learning to make pan sauces is a basic skill all cooks should learn. They have multiple applications. Use a 12" stainless steel frying pan. Stainless is better than non-stick because you want the pan to cause the meat juices to brown and stick to the pan, but not burn. These brown bits, called fond (which means roughly "base") by French chefs, will dissolve when we make the sauce and add to the flavor.
Makes. 2 servings
Make the meat even in thickness. One of the problems with chicken breasts is that they are thick at one end and thin at the other, so you usually overcook the thin end or undercook the thick end. We solve this problem by flattening the meat by pounding it. Another problem is that the skin is impervious and acts like a rubber boot to prevent flavor from getting to the meat. Here's how. Remove the chicken skin and trim off excess fat (I know, it hurts to do this, but it really pays off). Rinse the meat and dry with paper towels. There is often a flap of meat, sometimes called the tenderloin, on the underside of each breast. Remove it and set it aside. Pull out about 12" of plastic wrap or wax paper. Lay the meat slightly off center on the plastic wrap, fold the rest over the top, and pound it with a frying pan bottom until it is about 1/2" thick all over. Think of your boss while doing this. But don't get carried away. Pound the meat too flat, and it will be overcooked by the time it gets crispy, so get this right. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
Other meats. You can use veal, pork, or even turkey if you wish. Just slice it or pound it so it is about 1/2" thick.
2) Heat the pan a medium-high heat and then add the oil. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add the meat and let it cook for about 3 minutes until the bottoms start to turn GBD (Golden Brown and Delicious). Turn the meat over and cook about another 3 minutes until GBD. Remove the meat and put it in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate so it stays warm.
3) Add to the pan about 1 tablespoon of the flour left from when you coated the meat. Cook the flour about three minutes until the whiteness is gone. Add the wine and lemon juice. Cook the sauce, stirring and scraping the bits from the pan for 2 to 3 minutes until it starts to thicken and doesn't look cloudy. Add the capers and stir. Add the meat and cook another minute or two on each side just to warm it.
4) Move the meat to the serving plates, add the side dishes, and pour or spoon the sauce and capers over the meat. Garnish with fresh parsley and a lemon slice. If there's extra sauce, put it on the rice.
This page was revised 12/4/2012
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