Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fish, Basque style

I think that making something "al Vasco" or "in the style of the Basque" just means that you use a lot of stewed peppers and onions. As this is a traditional dish, there are a million ways to make it. My version uses saffron, smoked paprika, thyme, and a little hot pepper to give the dish a really rich, warm taste. A lot of times, Basque style dishes include piquillo peppers. I didn't have any, but if you can get them, you might want to try adding them to the dish.

  • 1 whole fish (branzino, trout, snapper, etc)
  • 1 onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 tomato, seeded, and diced
  • small potatos (enough for two servings)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chicken or veggie broth/stock
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • parsley
  • lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the potatos in half or quarters, depending on the size, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove and let drain.

Cut the bell peppers in half and core them. Toss the potatos with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and two cloves of minced garlic. Place the potatos and the bell peppers, separately, in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Slice up the onion and cook with olive oil over medium high heat. Once the onions begin to cook down, reduce the heat to medium or medium low and let cook, stirring occasionally for another 20 minutes or so. You don't want them to fry, so pay attention to the heat and keep it low. You want to really bring out the sweetness.

When the peppers and potatoes are done roasting, set the potatos aside and place the peppers in a paper bag or a bowl covered in plastic and let sit for a couple minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and slice into long thin strips. Add to the pan with the onions along with two cloves of minced garlic and the diced tomato and cook on medium heat for a couple minutes. Add the wine to this mixture and turn up the heat to reduce it. Add the red pepper flakes, paprika, and tomato paste and mix everything together. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of stock along with the paprika and let simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. You may also want to add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar.

While the stew is simmering, season the fish with salt and pepper and cut vertical slits along both sides of the fish. Once the stew is done, place it in a roasting pan or oven safe dish large enough to hold the fish and mix together with the potatos. Add more broth if this mixture looks too thick. Place the fish on top of the potatos, and cover with some of the pepper mixture. Roast at 400F for 30 minutes.

Carefully remove the fish to a cooking sheet. Again, be careful. It is really easy to break the fish here. Place the fish under the broiler for a couple minutes. Keep an eye on it. You want to crisp the skin, but it goes from crisp to burned really quickly. While the fish is broiling, mix 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped parsley into the peppers. Transfer everything to a serving dish (if you didn't just cook it in the serving dish), and place the fish back on top. Squeeze a bit of lemon over everything, garnish with some more parsley, and eat it while its hot.

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