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Eric Akis: Pork piccata with lively lemony sauce

A little bit of lemon can lift up the flavour of a wide range of savoury dishes. Today it provides that support in an Italian-style dish called piccata.
Lemony pork piccata is served with orzo and a roasted tomato half. ERIC AKIS

A little bit of lemon can lift up the flavour of a wide range of savoury dishes. Today it provides that support in an Italian-style dish called piccata.

Piccata is made by sautéing an escalope — thin slice — of meat and making a sauce for it with its pan juices and other items I’ll soon talk about. Veal is traditional used, but these days you’ll also find recipes for chicken piccata, turkey piccata and pork piccata, which I chose for today’s recipe.

The process begins by pounding small boneless pork loin chops until about quarter-inch thick. The meat was seasoned, lightly coated in flour and then sautéed a few minutes in a hot mix of melted butter and olive oil, until golden and cooked through.

The meat is then removed from the pan. You then make sauce for it by adding garlic and capers to the pan, followed by a splash of white wine. When the wine has reduced, in goes some freshly squeezed lemon juice and chicken stock.

The sauce is simmered, and then some chopped parsley and another dab of butter is added. The meat is returned to the pan, heated a while, and the flour coating it helps to lightly thicken the sauce.

The end result is a full-flavoured, fairly easy pork dish that will make a very nice dinner for two. I served the pork piccata with orzo; a rice-shaped pasta sold at most supermarkets. As you’ll see in the recipe, I accented it with Parmesan cheese and peas and baked it in the oven, something you can do while the pork piccata is cooking on the stove.

I also served the pork with baked tomatoes. I did not include a recipe for them, because all you have to do is cut a medium on-the-vine tomato in half. You then set those half tomatoes, cut side up, in a small baking dish, drizzle them with olive oil, season them with salt, pepper and dried herbs, such as basil and oregano, and bake them at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are just starting to become tender.

Pork Piccata

Boneless pork loin chops are pounded thin, coated in flour, sautéed and then coated in a lemony sauce, with garlic, parsley, butter and other good things. Serve the pork with the orzo recipe below and baked tomato halves.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes

Makes: two servings

4 small (about 60 to 85 grams each) boneless pork chops

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp butter

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp drained capers

2 Tbsp white wine (see Eric’s options)

1/2 cup chicken stock

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Set pork chops on a work surface and cover with a double layer of plastic wrap. Use a kitchen hammer to pound each chop until about 1/4-inch thick.

Spread flour on a plate. Season pork with salt and pepper, and then coat with the flour, shaking off the excess.

Place oil and 1 Tbsp of the butter in a large skillet (mine was 12-inches wide) set over medium-high heat. When butter is melted and no longer foaming, add the pork to the skillet and sauté until golden brown and cooked through, about three minutes per side.

Remove pork from the skillet and set on a clean plate. Reduce heat under the skillet to medium. Add garlic and capers and cook and stir about 30 seconds. Add the wine to the skillet and simmer and reduce by half. Now add the stock and lemon juice, bring to a simmer, simmer one minute, and then mix in the 1 tsp of butter and parsley.

Return pork to the skillet and heat through, about one minute per side. Set two pieces of pork on each of two heated dinner plates, spoon sauce in the skillet over them, and serve.

Eric’s options: If you’re not a fan of capers, simply leave them out of the recipe. If you don’t want use wine, replace with more chicken stock.

Orzo with Parmesan and Peas

Here’s a simple side dish to serve with pork piccata that sees orzo cooked, cooled, drained and then baked with bright-green peas and fruity/nutty tasting Parmesan cheese.

Preparation time: five minutes

Cooking time: about 33 minutes

Makes: two servings

1/2 cup orzo

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup frozen peas (do not thaw first)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus some for sprinkling

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/3 cup chicken stock

Bring 4 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo, return water to a boil, and cook until just tender, about seven to eight minutes. While orzo cooks, preheat oven to 350 F.

When cooked, drain orzo well, cool in ice-cold water, drain well again, and then set in a bowl. Add oil, peas, 1/4 cup of the cheese, salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Spoon the orzo into a small- to medium-sized oval baking dish (mine was six-inches wide, and nine-inches long). Pour in the stock. Cover and bake 25 minutes, or until orzo is piping hot. Uncover orzo, sprinkle with a little more grated Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.