Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fish in Crazy Water (Pesce all'Acqua Pazza)

Those Italians. Beautifully vivid with their recipe names. You can almost picture a cartoon mustachioed chef with steam rocketing out of his ears, elevating his quaking leather boots from the ground as he tests out this so-called crazy water.

Truth be told, it is a little zany.

A few lessons learned from this recipe:

1. A little crushed red pepper goes a loooong way. I guess that's effect produced by the long-simmer. The flavors meld and spotlight the spice.
2. My new kitchen smokes up right quickly. Thankfully there's a powerful vent, but the noise and air did detract somewhat from my inhaling of the aromatics.
3. Speaking of aromatics! The Italian term for a bundle of lovely smells sauteed in olive oil (here I used oregano and parsley) is soffritto. I imagine it's somewhat related to the French mirepoix, which refers to the usual suspects (onions, carrots, celery, what have you) used in making a stock.
4. Must work quickly with a gas stove and thinly sliced garlic. When initially sauteeing the garlic, I had to shake the pan a lot to keep the garlic from sticking. Using a wooden spoon would have caused it to clump.
5. The combination of grilled corn and pesto is more of a winner than the Dillon Panthers.

I used pollock for the fish here, mainly because I was looking for something not-too-pricey that didn't bring a strong flavor (here's looking at you, salmon) along with it. Pollock did a great job at absorbing the flavor of the tomato and spices while still bringing along its own pleasant fishiness.

To complement the hydrating psychosis, I chose a couple of other summer standards with a bit of Italian flair. I cannot get enough of tomatoes and corn right now. Grilling them? Even better. The additions of a balsamic-based marinade (for the tomatoes) and a heaping dose of pesto ladled over the ear of corn and I was practically mopping my plate to ensure nothing fell by the wayside.

Fish in Crazy Water (Pesce all'Acqua Pazza) [adapted from Cooks Illustrated]
Serves 2 - 3.

4 fillets pollock (the kind I purchased were very narrow)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 small red onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4 stems parsley and 2 sprigs fresh oregano, tied together with kitchen twine (soffritto)
1 cup chicken stock (or dry white wine, which I would have preferred to use but forgot to purchase)
2 cups water
Juice from one lemon

2 ears corn
1/4 cup pesto

2 large Creole tomatoes, cored and halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

1. In a 9x13 baking dish, whisk together balsamic, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Placed tomatoes face down in dish and let marinate at room-temperature for 15 - 20 minutes.
2. In a 12-inch skillet, heat up olive oil over medium-high. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Shake the pan to keep garlic from sticking. Cook until pale golden.
3. Add in red onion slices, stirring constantly, until onion is translucent and beginning to brown.
4. Pour in chicken stock, water, cherry tomatoes, and the soffritto. Lower heat to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile heat grill pan to medium-high, drizzling it with a bit more olive oil. Add tomatoes (hollow-side down) and ears of corn. Grill tomatoes for two minutes before flipping. Remove after another five to six minutes, as tomato starts to caramelize. Grill corn, turning frequently and brushing with oil, until browned on all sides.
5. Carefully slide fish fillets into broth mixture. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and let cook for another 10 minutes.
6. Serve by halving fish fillets, placing them in a bowl, then ladling the broth (along with onions and tomatoes) over the fish. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle parsley over each bowl.
7. Ladle pesto over corn.
8. Enjoy!

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