Have I mentioned that I simply adore Piccata dishes? There’s something extraordinary about the way the buttery, lemony wine and capers sauce dances on my tongue that is out of this world!
Years ago, one of our favorite restaurants was Antonio’s Fine Dining at the Rio in Las Vegas. Antonio’s was one of our top choices when it came dining out for good reasons. (And in Las Vegas, there’s a bounty of Five-Star restaurants to choose from, so it speaks volumes to say this was one of our favorites). The food at Antonio’s was superb, the wine list extensive (both Italian and California wines) and the atmosphere was elegant yet relaxed. While we preferred to “dress up” when dining out, Antonio’s wasn’t one of those pretentious places where a jacket is required and the servings are so small that you end up wondering when the appetizer course will end and the real eating will begin.
The lights of the main dining room were dim, while the open kitchen was brightly lit, drawing attention to the hustle and bustle of food preparation. There was a warm sense of comfort from the muffled sounds of copper pots clanging together and the distinct sizzle of meats cooking on the fire grill. It was one of those places where diners were not just customers, but were treated as guests. You felt welcome and were encouraged to linger over a well-prepared meal. My husband and I could spend hours engaged in conversation, as though we were the only people in the place. The pace of the service perfect – with just enough time between courses to savor every last bite. And it didn’t hurt that we got to know the staff – our favorite table was always waiting. Desserts were not-on-the-menu creations made especially for us. How I miss those days. I’m not even sure Antonio’s still exists – at least not as it once did – which is sad.
My favorite dish to order at Antonio’s was the Veal Piccata. It was so light, so milky-smooth and delicious. Veal Piccata was my introduction to Piccata dishes. Today Veal is a luxury I try to avoid – more for social rather than economic reasons. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up Piccata – just the veal variety. Many of the recipes I once used to prepare veal cutlets I now use for pork instead – or chicken or even fish for that matter.
Today is Friday – and we continue to strive for that old tradition of Fish on Fridays. According to Catholic teachings, to give up meat is an act of penance, to make a sacrifice. While the Church has relaxed dietary restrictions on Fridays over the years, the obligation of penance and sacrifice remains and the practice of Abstinence Fridays is still encouraged. However; when we enjoy things such Dover Sole Piccata, it really doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice, but more an indulgence. So how do I rationalize the choice of meatless meals consisting of foods that we enjoy? The point isn’t so much the sacrifice, but rather drawing attention to the day – Friday. In Christian teaching, Christ died on Friday. Within the Catholic Church, we abstain from meat (flesh) on all Fridays during lent as a matter of Church Law to honor the day. In our house, we honor each Friday with celebration – at least at the dinner table. Long gone are the days of Macaroni & Cheese, Tuna Casserole, Egg Salad Sandwiches and Fish Sticks from my very Catholic childhood. (Don’t tell anyone, but every now and again, I like to wander down memory lane with a big plate of fish sticks smothered in a blend of ketchup and mayonnaise). Perhaps it’s the explosion of the internet, with an endless supply of meatless dishes that has brought about the change for Catholics who still observe the abstinence on Fridays, with so many wonderful choices that grace our Friday tables. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of pre-Vatican II children becoming adults, with a more sophisticated palate that has brought about the changes in Post-Vatican II observation. Whatever the reason, Fridays are special for us.
Another plus for this particular dish is that from prep to table, you’ve invested only about 30 minutes of your time. Not bad for the end of a long week, huh? And the presentation of this dish makes it appear that you have slaved away for hours! This is one of those Friday meals that I wouldn’t hesitate to serve to company.
Dover Sole Piccata
1 lb Dover Sole Fillets (or any light, white fish fillet, skins removed)
2 Tablespoons Flour
Salt & White Pepper to taste
¼ Cup Olive Oil
¼ Cup White Wine
4 Cloves Garlic, chopped
3 Green Onions, white parts only, finely minced
¼ Cup Lemon Juice, fresh
6 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Capers
2 Lemon for garnish
4 Cherry Tomatoes for garnish
4 Sprigs Fresh Parsley for garnish
Slice lemons in half, then cut V-slits to create a “blossom”. Cut thin slice from the bottom of the tomato so that it will sit flat. Cut V-slits to create tomato blossoms, taking care not to cut all the way through. Gently open the blossom, then push out a bit of the seeds. Cover blossoms and set aside until ready to serve.
Chop garlic and onions for Sole Piccata and set aside until ready to use
In a glass pie pan, mix flour, a dash of salt & white pepper to dredge sole. Set aside.
In a heavy skillet large enough for sole, olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Blot sole dry with paper towels, dredge in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess flour.
Fry sole in hot oil until golden brown. Do not rush sole, give it time to brown nicely. Flip and fry other side to a golden brown. Remove sole from skillet, plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Deglaze sole skillet with white wine, scrapping up any brown pieces of sole remaining in pan. Add garlic, onion and lemon juice. Sauté until liquid is reduced by half. Slowly mix in butter, one tablespoon at a time until melted and creamy-smooth. Season with salt & pepper to taste, add capers and heat 1-2 minutes.
Spoon sauce over sole. Garnish dishes with blossoms. Tuck parsley around and under the blossoms and serve.
Spero che vi piaccia questo meraviglioso pasto!