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Restaurant favorite made easily at home

Piccata: the Italian restaurant classic. You’ve seen it, you’ve ordered it, you’ve fallen in love with it, but what the heck is piccata? I’m glad you asked.

The culinary use of the Italian word “piccata” means “to be pounded flat.” As a way of preparing poultry, meat or fish, it means “tenderized, sautéed and served in a sauce containing lemon, butter and capers.”

Usually when we associate a food with restaurants, we assume that it’s difficult or time-consuming to prepare. Well, you’ll be happy to see how easy it is to make piccata at home.

Let’s talk pork piccata. Imagine tender pieces of pork pounded thin, then lightly coated with seasoned flour, and sautéed quickly in butter and olive oil. The star of this dish is the thin, vibrant pan sauce with a bright lemon flavor, a hint of white wine and speckled with briny capers. It’s all about that sauce. It’s tangy, buttery and briny.

A few words about the components of this recipe. Most of the ingredients are common, apart from capers. If you’re not familiar, capers are the immature, green flower buds of the caper bush that are pickled to give a piquant, salty, briny flavor to many foods. They’re found in Mediterranean cuisines and cuisines around the world. Capers are found in the condiment aisle of the grocery store near pickles and olives. They’re usually around $2, but I often find capers at dollar stores at a savings.

In this recipe you can use reconstituted (bottled) lemon juice and it’s terrific. Especially when lemons are out of season and cost a buck a piece. No wine? No problem. Just replace with ¼ cup chicken broth. This dish can be made using boneless, skinless chicken breast in place of the pork.

This goes beautifully with buttered whole wheat spaghetti and asparagus. If asparagus is out of season, serve steamed broccoli or sauteed spinach.

What kind of white wine? Wine pairings can be tricky with piccata. Chardonnay, with hints of butter and citrus, pairs amazingly well with piccata. Pinot grigio and pinot blanc are a great match with their citrus notes and crisp minerality. Sauvignon blanc, with citrus and herbal notes, pairs nicely with the lemon and capers in this dish. If you’re serving this with asparagus, choose a sauvignon blanc.

Now, we don’t have to wait for an occasion to order piccata at a restaurant because piccata at home makes any day a special occasion.

Easy Pork Piccata

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes

What you’ll need:

4 (about 1½ pounds) boneless pork chops, about 1 inch thick

The zest and juice of one large lemon or 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

4 tablespoons butter, divided

Splash of olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

¼ cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon capers

Here’s how:

Place individual pork chops between two pieces of wax paper, plastic wrap or into a large zip-top plastic bag. Using a meat mallet, heavy skillet or rolling pin, flatten the chops to about half an inch. Repeat with remaining chops.

Put 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a shallow bowl. Mix the flour with salt and pepper on a shallow plate. (I reuse disposable aluminum pie pans for this.) Dip a flattened chop in the lemon juice allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Dredge the chop in the seasoned flour, shaking off all excess. Set aside.

Repeat with remaining chops.

Into a large heavy skillet on medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons butter and a splash of olive oil until sizzling. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, cook the seasoned pork chops 3-4 minutes on each side until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove pork chops from pan and keep warm.

In the same pan, add the garlic and sauté for about 20 seconds. Don’t burn the garlic. Add the wine and remaining tablespoon lemon juice and zest to the skillet. Scrape to loosen all the lovely brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Let this cook for about three minutes to slightly reduce.

Add the broth, capers and remaining butter. Stir until butter is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Return the pork chops to the skillet and turn to coat with sauce. Serve with sauce drizzled over the pork chops.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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