When it comes to seafood, often simplest is best – quick and easy cooking techniques ensure that fish retains its natural flavor and keeps it from becoming overcooked or dry. Pan sauté any thin fillet – halibut, swordfish, tuna, salmon, sole, tilapia – or even lobster meat or scallops, and serve drizzled in piccata, a classic Italian sauce that shows off the succulence of fish oils and balances them with sea-salty brine. With just a couple of ingredients that you can keep on hand at all times, you can have a light and yet robustly-flavored meal ready in a matter of minutes.

You will need:

  • 4 fish fillets – try halibut or swordfish
  • handful of flour (this can be omitted for gluten-free diets), poured onto a plate
  • olive oil
  • 3 T butter
  • 4-5 shallots, minced
  • ½ lemon, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1-2 T capers
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1. Heat a little olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a heavy skillet over high heat. Rinse the fish in cold running water, dust each side with salt and pepper, and dredge the fillets in the flour.

2. When the oil is hot, gently place two of the fillets in the skillet, sautéing until golden and then turning them over and browning on both sides. Remove from heat and keep warm in the oven while you cook the second two fillets the same way.

3. Pour the used oil and any bits from the skillet and return it to the heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and allow it to melt. Add the shallots and 4 or 5 lemon slices, sautéing until the shallots turn golden and translucent. Pour in the wine or vermouth, and stir briskly with a wooden spoon or small whisk. Remove the lemon slices, and place them over the fish fillets.

4. Add the rest of the butter to the pan, along with the capers. Let the sauce thicken, and add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve immediately with crusty bread to mop up leftover sauce. A crisp green salad and orzo cooked with chilies and saffron make nice accompaniments.

Simple Sauces: Piccata
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