Picatta is a traditional Italian method for preparing meats, usually veal, pork or chicken. The meat is pounded very thin for tenderness and quick cooking and then dredged lightly in flour seasoned with salt and black pepper. Cooked until just done in butter, the meat is removed from the pan. Freshly squeezed lemon juice, white wine and capers are added and the sauce reduced to thicken. The sauce is finished with fresh parsley or basil and the meat added back to the pan to warm and meld the flavors. Picatta dishes are simple and fast to prepare.
I decided to use conch because it is not commonly available even in Florida and my wife found some while shopping. Large and sturdy shellfish, conch is often chopped very fine and used in fritters or ceviche to make it seem less tough and chewy. Wanting to try something different and having capers in the refrigerator, lemons in the fruit basket and fresh herbs growing in the backyard garden, I decided to make conch picatta.
3/4 pound whole conch, fresh or frozen 1/4 cup whole wheat bread flour
1/4 cup fine organic cornmeal 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons capers
juice of 1 lemon 1/2 cup white wine of choice(whatever is open)
2 tablespoons grass-fed butter 1 tablespoon olive oil of choice
1 tablespoon chopped or whole leaf fresh parsley or basil Optional: minced garlic, onion or shallot at step 4
1. Place the pieces of conch, one at a time, between two pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap on a heavy cutting board. Pound out slowly, alternating sides several times, with a meat tenderizer or the back side of a heavy chef’s knife. The goal is to break down the muscle fibers without cutting it up too much so it retains its shape and stays in one piece. Aim for about half the starting thickness.
2. Mix the whole wheat flour, cornmeal, sea salt and black pepper in a bowl. Sprinkle the pounded conch with lemon juice and dredge through the flour mixture on both sides to coat lightly but thoroughly.
3. Place the butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook the floured conch until lightly browned on both sides and just cooked through. Remove the conch from the skillet.
4. Add the capers, lemon juice and white wine to the pan and reduce to a loose sauce consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
5. Reduce heat to low. Add the cooked conch back to the pan to just heat through.
6. Serve the conch, topped with a little sauce, with sides of your choice.
Picatta is a versatile style of preparation for meat, fish or vegetable preparation. The sauce is high in nutrients and good fats and low in carbohydrates. The lemon, capers and fresh herbs make a bright, tasty entree appropriate for any healthy whole food diet.
Make a vegan picatta by using eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash or other sliced vegetable instead of meat or fish. Try avocado or walnut oils to replace the butter.