Veal piccata. Chicken piccata. Fish piccata.
Here, in Philadelphia, piccata is a staple at your typical ‘red sauce’ joint. You know the jawn — thin cuts of meat, flour dredge, lemon-butter sauce, capers, and served with a stereotypical South Philly accent.
While my almond crusted fish piccata may bear little resemblance to those turned out on red and white checked tables, it’s fresh, light, and keeps all the familiar flavors like tart lemon, bright white wine, and briny capers. I use sole, but you can really use any flaky white fish.
I serve this with an easy fried caper and raw fennel salad that plays off of classic piccata. Here, crunchy fennel compliments nutty almond-crusted fish, and fried capers add much need salt and additional texture to tart and buttery lemon-wine sauce.
Your nonna’s piccata this is not. But, given how delicious it is, I think she’ll get over it.
Fish Piccata with Fried Caper & Fennel Salad
FRIED CAPER & FENNEL SALAD
- 1/4 cup 60 g brined capers, drained
- 1 cup 240 ml grapeseed oil
- 2 Tbsp preserved lemon, finely minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp red chili flakes
- 1/4 cup 7 g fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp reserved fried caper oil
- 1 small fennel bulb, halved, cored, and shaved thinly on a mandolin
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 lb 454 g sole or another flaky white fish, cut into 4 oz fillets
- 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup 56 g cornstarch
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup 60 ml whole milk
- 1 cup 96 g Barney Butter Almond Flour
- 1.5 cup 75 g Panko Breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus 1 Tbsp more for the pan sauce
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup 120 ml dry white wine
- 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp fennel fronds, roughly chopped
- kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Prepare the Fried Caper & Fennel Salad
- Drain the capers well and pat gently between paper towels to dry. Add the grapeseed oil to a 2-quart saucepan and heat to 350°F over high-heat. Add the capers and fry until the capers begin to open, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel to cool. Reserve 1 Tbsp of the caper infused oil.
- In a small bowl, add the preserved lemon, lemon juice, chili flakes, parsley, extra-virgin olive oil, and the reserved caper oil. Using your hands, add the shaved fennel and mix to combine. Add a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper. Just before serving, stir in the fried capers.
Prepare the Fish Piccata
- Set three wide, shallow bowls on your work surface. Add the cornstarch seasoned with 1 tsp of kosher salt to the first bowl, the eggs beaten with the milk to the second, and the panko mixed with the almond flour to the third.
- Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and then season on both sides with the remaining 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of freshly cracked black pepper. One at a time, dredge the fish in the cornstarch, shaking off the excess. Next, dip the fish in the egg mixture and lift to allow the excess to drain off. Then, gently press the fish into the almond flour making sure to coat well on both sides. Transfer the fish to a clean plate and repeat with the remaining fillets.
- Heat your largest sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp of butter and 2 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and heat until the butter starts to foam. Add two pieces of fish to the pan taking care not crowd the fish and press down on each with a spatula to ensure a good sear.
- Cook the fish for about 2 minutes (depending on thickness) before flipping and cooking for another 2 minutes on the other side. Carefully transfer the fish to a plate. Repeat with the remaining fillets. If the butter starts to burn, wipe-out the pan and start again using another 2 Tbsp of butter and 2 Tbsp of oil.
- Once all the fish is cooked, wipe-out the pan and return it to medium-high heat. Add the wine and cook to burn off the raw alcohol taste, about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and simmer for 15 seconds. Turn off the heat and add the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter and the parsley, whisking until emulsified into a pan sauce.
- Carefully transfer the fish to individual plates. Spoon about 2 Tbsp of the pan sauce over each fillet. Top with the Fried Caper & Fennel Salad divided equally among the plates. Garnish with the fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper.