Pasta

How to Piccata Anything

January 18, 2016

Piccata: sounds like staccato.

You can—pardon me here, Giada—imagine Giada de Laurentiis pronouncing it: pee-CAHT-tah!!!! Staccato indeed: “With each sound or note sharply detached or separated from the others.” Piccata’s notes are plucky ones, puckery ones: wine, lemon, capers, parsley. Little baby suckerpunches, each one of them, all held together by butter’s softness and a bit of stock.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

A whole bunch of us grew up eating chicken piccata at Italian-American restaurants with our parents, or at least I did, preceded by an entire serving of fried calamari, and breadsticks too. I’d eat every last little swipe of sauce, excited at how it made the back of my tongue water, at how smooth it felt, at how it draped itself over long strips of pasta. It’s a thrilling sauce. Even more thrilling is the fact that you can use it on any protein that goes well with lemon and wine. (Even tofu and chickpeas!)

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Here’s how:

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Prepare your protein.
- For chicken: Pound boneless, skinless breasts ‘til they’re thin, then give them a bit of salt and pepper and coat them lightly in flour. Fry on each side until they’re cooked through, and keep them warm in the oven.
- For fish: Sprinkle with salt and pepper, dredge lightly in flour, cook for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through.
- For tofu: Go for something extra-firm and press it, then slice it thinly and coat it in salt, pepper, and flour, then fry it ‘til it’s nice and brown on each side.
- Chickpeas or white beans: Do nothing! Unless they’re dried. In that case, soak them and cook them up real nice like this.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Make your sauce.
In the pan that you may or may not have cooked your protein in, sauté some chopped or thinly sliced shallots—or diced onion, if that’s all you have—in olive oil or butter until they’re translucent. Then add some stock: Chicken piccata wants for chicken stock; fish piccata needs fish stock; tofu or beans do well with vegetable stock. You’ll want about a third of a cup for every two-person serving, but feel free to eyeball it, and remember that this sauce is good—you’ll want a lot of it. Next add lemon juice, roughly one lemon for every two servings, and a good healthy splash of white wine. Two splashes, maybe. Last come the capers. Go wild here. Just sprinkle them in there liberally. Everyone loves capers. Let this all simmer for a bit.

Don’t forget a starch.
Pasta is the obvious choice here—go for something long, like angel hair or spaghetti or fettuccine. But you can also try mashed potatoes, or whatever other starch strikes your fancy. (Fried toast? Why the heck not!)

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Finish it.
Taste your sauce. Do you like it? Is it puckery and buttery and winey and smooth? Good, that means it’s ready! If it doesn’t taste ready, give it more lemon, or more stock, or more time. Once you like where it’s at, add your protein back in, and let it all simmer together for a few minutes so the protein adopts some of the piccata flavor into its insides. In the last minute or so of cooking, throw a handful of chopped parsley into the pot. And ta-da! You have pee-CAHT-tah!

Garnish with lemon slices if that be your wont. Just be sure to kiss your fingers like an Italian chef before serving. Muah!

16 Comments

Eric March 29, 2017
Just a couple suggestions here. This works really well with thin-cut pork chops (or even pounded out boneless country-style pork ribs), which are often a huge bargain where I live, even compared to chicken or turkey. Also, I recommend adding the lemon after you've cooked down the stock and wine, as it can become bitter.
 
truecoriander March 28, 2017
I just made this last night, using veal scallopine and leftover cooked rotini pasta.
 
Sibylle December 31, 2016
Piccata Milanese is usually breaded Schnitzel where the breadcrumbs are mixed with parmiggiano reggiano and served with a tomato sauce and spaghetti. Therefore that's not what I have expected when I read the title.
 
nancy January 25, 2016
p.s. i'm making the dish now. delicious!
 
nancy January 25, 2016
marion, thank you for apologizing. this comes up more often than you can imagine. you are the first person i have confronted with this to step up to the plate & own it & apologize. i sincerely thank you for that! i"m sure you respect all cultures.
 
Margaret K. January 25, 2016
Marion--- you stirred up wonderful memories of growing up in the 50's on Staten Island. The smell of a good neighborhood Italian restaurant when you walked in the door---I will never forget it. Thank you!
 
Mohammed C. January 25, 2016
Does anyone else see the tip of a finger with fingernail in a bean at the bottom of the photo?? :-D
 
aargersi January 25, 2016
Oh dear yes and now I can't UN-see it!
 
nancy January 25, 2016
p.s. re: "all in good fun". racism is always good fun for the racist. not so much fun for those it's directed against.
 
Author Comment
Marian B. January 25, 2016
nancy, I apologize for writing something that was offensive to you; it wasn't my intention at all, and I appreciate you speaking up.
 
nancy January 25, 2016
i have no desire to get into a commenting war. just let me say that when you have offended someones race it's really for the offended person to decide if the remarks were offensive. the general public consistently makes racist comments about italians & when confronted with their racism they usually respond as you have. italians are fair game for all sorts of racism. if you made remarks like this about any other race people would be up in arms, but sadly insulting italians is always considered ok. check your history of italians & italian americans for more edification on this subject. sadly this writer has ruined an otherwise excellent post with careless commentary on race.
 
nancy January 25, 2016
please stop it with the racist commentary. no need to satirize italian accents & finger kissing. i"m italian. these are gross, untrue, offensive stereotypes!<br />how insulting!
 
aargersi January 25, 2016
Pretty sure this is all in good fun and in appreciation of good food - not to satirize or offend. We all get a tad bit too sensitive / take things a bit too personally at times. Must be bigger fish to fry or take offense at than this in the world!!
 
aargersi January 18, 2016
Now I have to tell you a story based on this: Last come the capers. Go wild here. Just sprinkle them in there liberally. Everyone loves capers. <br />YEARS ago I made a girl's dinner for sisters-in-law and friends - a pasta not unlike picatta, + shrimp + olives +lots of herbs. Youngest sister in law (who shall remain unnamed) took a bite, made a horrible face and pulled a caper out of her mouth crying "WHAT IS THIS?" So I said, of course, "it's a caper!" Her delicate lady like reply (in full, loud Texas Twang) "[email protected], you need to warn somebody before you put that sh!t in their food" ... And so, everybody -1 loves capers. Haha!
 
Lauren R. January 25, 2016
I don't like capers, either! I suspect there is NOTHING that everyone likes.
 
Mohammed C. January 25, 2016
Ditto! ;-)