Italy made a name for itself with pasta, but if you're sleeping on piccatas, you are missing out, friends. The most satisfying, golden crusted fish fillets doused in a buttery, lemony, capery magic sauce. Serve this yellowtail flounder piccata over parmesan polenta or garlic mashed potatoes and just wait for the standing ovation.
One of the highlights of my wedding day (other than happily ever after, blah blah blah) came at the dinner service. I had opted for a beef dish (I have no idea what that was?) and a chicken piccata dish. The piccata was pure magic. If the corset of my wedding dress had allowed it, I would have tipped the platter back and drained it dry.
Since the sauce is the best part of any chicken piccata, I figured I could transfer it to almost any fish vehicle and have a similarly transcendent experience. Spoiler alert: I was right. Also spoiler alert: the crispy fish is just as alluring as the caper-studded lemon butter sauce.
This recipe diverges from some classic preparation in that I recommend dredging the fish in both flour and seasoned breadcrumbs. The crispy crunchy breading is achieved with very little oil by using a trick I learned from Serious Eats - leaving the thin fillets of fish to cook about 80 percent through on the first side, then flipping to the second side just long enough to cook through without drying out the fish. This method gives a lovely crust on the presentation side of the fish and leaves the fish succulent and flaky.
I used yellowtail flounder for this recipe - a lovely species that lives along the east coast of the US. But any type of flounder will work!
What you'll need to make Yellowtail Flounder Piccata (with Parmesan polenta):
- flounder fillets
- large eggs
- Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- Parmesan cheese
- all purpose flour
- sea salt and black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- white wine
- veggie stock
- fresh lemon juice
- fresh parsley
- grits or polenta, for serving
Step by step instructions for this Yellowtail Flounder Piccata recipe:
Begin by setting up your dredging station. Combine ½ cup of all purpose flour with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper in a shallow dish. In a second dish, beat two eggs very well. In the third shallow dish, add ½ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and ¼ cup finely shredded or grated parmesan cheese.
Next, dry both sides of each fillet with paper towels very well. First, dredge a flounder fillet lightly in the seasoned flour. Gently shake off any excess flour coating before dipping into the beaten eggs, then into the seasoned bread crumb and parmesan mixture, ensuring the cheese and breadcrumbs thoroughly coat both sides of the delicate fish fillet.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the breaded fish fillets to the hot skillet, but don’t overcrowd the large skillet. You will likely need to pan sear the fish in two batches.
Flounder is generally a fairly thin fillet, so monitor the heat and the fish closely as you cook to ensure they don't overcook. Leave the fish cooking on the first side for 3-4 minutes, until the fillet is almost cooked through. This will give you a beautiful golden brown crust of bread crumbs and parmesan on the presentation side. Carefully flip the fillets and cook for another minute, just until the fillet has a firm texture and is cooked through.
Transfer fish fillets to a baking tray and tent with foil or keep in a warm oven until ready to plate.
Return the skillet to the burner over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove any dark brown breadcrumbs and pour off any excess olive oil from the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, veggie broth, lemon juice and white wine into the pan.
Bring to a boil and cook over medium high heat until the mixture reduces by about ⅓. Add the capers and remove the pan from the heat.
Off the heat, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and chopped parsley and swirl or whisk into the pan juices until the sauce lightly thickens.
I like to serve this flounder piccata over parmesan polenta or grits. Just cook the polenta according to package instructions and when finished, add ½-2/3 cup finely grated parmesan and an extra tablespoon of butter. Whisk to combine. Spoon about ¾ cup parmesan polenta onto the plate or serving bowl.
Finally, top the parmesan polenta with a crispy fish fillet and spoon lemon butter caper sauce over the fillet. Garnish with lemon wedges.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
You sure can! Just be sure to thaw the fillets in the refrigerator overnight and dry them very well with paper towels before dredging.
Parsley is the traditional herb for piccata, but a teaspoon of fresh thyme would be delicious. Fresh basil would also add a lovely fresh and mild flavor to the lemon butter sauce.
Dover or grey sole are classic fish fillets to use for a piccata preparation. Trout fillets, corvina, grouper and even tilapia could also work for this preparation.
I love this dish with simple steamed broccolini and parmesan polenta. This fish with a golden crust is also delicious with garlic and lemon seasoned green beans and a cool summer salad like Gazpacho Salad or Mediterranean Tossed Salad.
You can - I prefer the seasoned regular breadcrumbs because flounder is very thin and panko can be aggressively crunchy. But if you're using a thicker flounder fillet or another style of fish fillet, panko could work well. Think about adding a dash of garlic powder, onion powder and dried oregano to season the unseasoned panko crumbs.
To store, wrap tightly or transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
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