Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lemony Piccata Compound Butter on Sautéed Opakapaka (Pink Snapper)

I don't sleep well as a rule. Even when I am tired, I struggle with getting my mind to settle down and stop all the random thoughts and ideas that run through it. Although it drives me crazy at times, I do come up with some of my best food ideas and recipes after midnight, like this one for a Lemony Piccata Compound Butter. It all started when the very creative Natasha at 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures introduced her March Recipe Makeover dish; creating a "compound butter with a twist"--incorporating different ingredients with butter or a butter spread to come up with a unique sweet or savory blend.

Last night (at about 1:00 AM), I finally decided I need to get my act together and decide what to make or the month would pass by me by. At first I was thinking curry, maybe mixed in with some cashews and other ingredients to serve on chicken or fish. Then thinking about chicken and fish got me thinking of one of my very favorite ways of preparing these foods, piccata style.

From Wikipedia: Piccata is an Italian word, the feminine form of the word piccato, meaning "larded." It is also spelled "piccata" "picatta" or "pichotta. When used in reference to a way of preparing food, particularly meat or fish, it means "sliced, sautéed, and served in a sauce containing lemon, butter, and spices." The best known dish of this sort is chicken piccata, using chicken, but the term is also used with veal (veal piccata).

A piccata sauce usually includes lemon, garlic, capers, butter and sometimes other ingredients (white wine, shallots or onions, parsley, etc.) depending on who is making it. So why not put some of those same ingredients into the compound butter?! Bonus, I had everything I needed to make the butter in my fridge and pantry.

For the base we had the option of using a butter substitute like I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (who is kindly providing a prize pack for a winner of this challenge event) or using butter. Since butter is in my freezer and using a substitute required a trip to the store, I went with butter. Plus if I am going to indulge, I gotta be honest and say I prefer the real stuff (no offense to butter substitutes or butter substitute lovers--my Mom is a big fan!) For the other ingredients, I had a small Maui onion which I cooked until almost caramelized to bring out even more of the sweetness, and of course garlic was a must. For big lemon flavor, I zested two lemons and added a couple of tablespoons of the juice and I also brought in some parsley for flavor and color. Finally the star of the show--capers! I wanted to keep much of the shape and texture so I pulsed them in at the end.

I made the butter in the morning and was out most of the day and into the evening hours so I wanted something relatively quick to cook when I got home. I stopped by Whole Foods and grabbed some local opakapaka (pink snapper), a bunch of local asparagus and a couple of scoops of a brown rice blend from the cooked grain section of the salad bar. Once home I steamed the asparagus while the fish cooked (sautéed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper), heated up the rice, and a delicious dinner was on the table in about 20 minutes.

Lemony Piccata Compound Butter
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen

1 tsp olive oil
1/4 onion, sliced thinly (or shallots would work well)
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest from 2 lemons
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves
8 Tbsp butter at room temp or a butter spread such as I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
2 Tbsp capers, drained
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add onion slices and cook on medium-low stirring frequently until soft and starting to caramelize (about 10 minutes). Add garlic and saute another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Combine onion garlic mixture, lemon zest, lemon juice and parsley in a food processor and blend into a thin paste consistency. Add butter (should be at room temperature) or spread and pulse several times until mixed (Don't over-mix). Add capers and pulse another few times. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Either roll into a log in a plastic wrap or place in a small bowl or ramekin and chill in fridge until firm. Serve on top of fish, chicken, veal or vegetables.

Notes/Results: Pretty darn amazing if I do say so myself. Wonderfully creamy and lemony with that wonderful slightly briny-tangy flavor that capers give a dish. This butter has BIG flavor--a little goes a long way, (good when we are talking about butter!), and it took a simple basic piece of fish to a whole new level. The bites of asparagus with the butter were amazing as well so this is a great one for livening up all kinds of veggies (spinach or other greens, potatoes, zucchini, and artichokes all come to mind--I mean can you imagine it with an artichoke?!), as well as chicken, veal, shrimp, etc. I made a small butter roll and put the rest in a little dish. Both worked fine and although I thought it about it after the fact, I think next time I would put it into little candy molds for some fun shapes and more visual appeal. This one was worth losing some sleep over! I will make this again whenever I need a little decadent indulging. ;-)

If you want to create your own creative compound butter or compound butter substitute, you have until Sunday, April 4th and you can get all the details on the 5 Star Foodie site (just click on the button above). Natasha will be posting a round-up of all the creative recipes on Monday, April 5th so be sure and check it out.


  1. Don't even talk to me about sleep issues....I can fall asleep but will wake up about three or four times EVERY NIGHT. And then no matter what. I am up before 8. Even if I went to bed at 4. I am up before 8. It sucks.

    But this. Looks. Amazing. It is almost like picatta deconstructed. and then reconstructed. Lovely.

  2. I can appreciate your sleep issues. I'm the same way. The silliest of things will keep me up at night.

    I love the compound butter challenge. A little indulgence and a whole lot of flavor can turn a simple meal into something special and gorgeous! You did a great job thinking of piccata butter and I bet it would be awesome on an artichoke.

  3. I make compound butters frequently, especially when all of the fresh herbs are in season. Oh my, I do love opakapaka! Hubby and I were just discussing the last time we ate it. It was at a restaurant on Poipu good. We can't get it here, unfortunately. Your piccata dish is beautiful. I'm going to be giving it a try with some red snapper or flounder that I have in the freezer. Have a great week.

  4. Oh yum! Deb, your lemony piccata butter looks and sounds amazing! What a great idea and a super entry for Natasha's make-over this month. Love it!

  5. Such a great recipe to have handy for all sorts of foods/events. Mahalo

  6. I love the idea of piccata compound butter sounds perfect! I will have to make this for my family - they would love it as piccata is one of our favorites, fabulous!

  7. I bookmarked Natashyas and now I'm bookmarking this! I love compound butters, but have never strayed far from the traditional.

  8. You've reminded me how much I like compound butters! Melting seductively into hot vegetables... I must make some!

  9. Delicious compound butter, all your favourite flavours! Great idea.
    And I agree, food substitutes are for people substitutes.

  10. Kat--thanks!

    Joanne--I do that two--wake up all night. ;-) It's crazy.

    Kim--Maybe you, Joanne and me should hangout online at night! ;-)

    Debbie--thanks! I think it would be good on most any fish. Poipu beach is a great place. ;-)

    Diva--thanks! I loved your butter with the chutney too. It was a fun challenge!

    menehune--mahalo! ;-)

    5 Star Foodie--thanks! And thank you for having the event--it is a fun one!

    Pam--thanks! It is a fun way to experiment. I can't wait to see some of the others.

    Foodycat--Oooh, "melting seductively" I like that!

    Natashya--well I might not go that far--I consider my Mom the real deal in people, ;-) it's just what she is used to. It's all about personal choice.

  11. I love opakapaka!!!! It's so nice to hear that someone else knows of this way to prepare snapper! Thanks so much for sharing this! I'm positive that it is superb! Roz

  12. Looks really delicious! I really love asparagus, my favorite green veggie by a country mile! Friended you up on google connect. Cheers~

  13. Roz--Thank you! I hope you try it and enjoy it. ;-)

    Wine Blog--Thanks! I am an asparagus lover too. I'll come visit your blog.

  14. What a delicious idea! Really. This has to be one of the best compound butters I've ever seen. If their was a prize you should get it! I get some of my best ideas during the night too - sometimes even cooking in my dreams - dishes I never even made before.


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