I’ve never been big on following the rules.
For as long as I can remember, my personality has been as far out of the box as possible. I’m not big on structure. I’m quite opposed to people telling me what to do. And as my dad likes to say–I always want to zig when everyone else zags.
Fortunately this works in my favor when it comes to cooking. I’ll certainly look up recipes and soak up as much information as possible from the hours of Food Network streaming from my TV–but when a blank cutting board and knife are in front of me, I see a canvas of extraordinary possibilities.
That being said, this lesson is to teach you how learning one simple method of preparation can lead to dozens of fabulous meals.
Don’t focus on the details or the step-by-step rules, just put your finest capers on and follow me.
Let’s talk Picatta.
You’ve heard the name before. You’ve seen it on countless menus. But have you ever made it at home? It’s amazing how some of the most flavorful dishes come from such a small amount of simple ingredients. Wine. Butter. Lemon. Oh my!
Picatta is wonderful and easy because it’s versatile and works well over almost ANY type of protein. You want a light, clean backdrop for Picatta sauce because it’s delicate and fresh. The capers give it a briny salty flavor while the sweet white wine and bright lemon round out the flavor. Chicken Picatta is a classic but I’ve found that mild, white, flaky fish soaks in the sauce even better. Flounder is my go-to for this dish, but unfortunately he swam out of the case at Whole Foods and hasn’t been seen in North Carolina since.
Yellowtail snapper–you’re up.
Not sure how to filet the fish yourself? Just ask. The guys behind the counter will happily give you a tutorial, and they’ll be impressed that you’re only mildly grossed out.
Three important rules:
1. Always pat your meat/fish/etc. dry with a paper towel so that it sears properly. Once it hits the pan, leave it alone until it’s time to flip.
No, that was not a typo. Bobby Flay doesn’t start every single meal with onions and garlic because he thinks it’s funny. He does it because aromatics are the depth and flavor behind simple dishes. I have three aromatic staples for almost every meal: Shallots, Garlic, Leeks. Leeks are much milder and sweeter than onions and shallots are similar to red onions but not as sharp.
- Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper.
- Sear the fish in olive oil and butter until golden brown on each side (undercook it just a bit because it will finish cooking in the sauce).
- Remove the fish from the pan and set aside.
- Add a bit more butter and olive oil to the pan and saute your aromatics until softened and fragrant (about 3-5 minutes); season with salt and pepper.
- De-glaze the pan with equal parts white wine and chicken or vegetable broth and a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice.
- Reduce on medium-high heat for about ten minutes.
- Stir in a small pad of butter for richness and add fish back to the pan.
- Top with lemon zest, fresh rough-chopped parsley, and capers
- Spoon sauce over fish for a few minutes to finish cooking through and coat the fish. *This also looks cool in front of guests.*
- TASTE! Always taste your dishes for salt and pepper before serving. Always.
Like I said, this is a technique which means that the canvas for which to drape your luscious lemony Picatta sauce over is up to you. Feeling adventurous? Spend the few extra dollars for scallops.