A perfectly cooked piece of steak is Arnold but the perfect piece of fish is George Clooney! For the sake of political correctness , lets say if a juicy steak is J Lo, then a fillet of fish cooked to perfection is Ingrid Bergman. Now that the analogy has been laid out (and maybe some frowned eyebrows and smiles as well) lets get to the core of the matter. Cooking a piece of meat is easy ,but a lot of people (me included) are scared of fish. So this summer, I’ve made it my mission to try out as much fish as I can. I usually buy my fish whole , be it a snapper, a mullet or a pomfret. Most of the time, its big enough for a single meal. Today, however, I decided to be a bit more adventurous and got myself a whole Plaice (about 1.3kg). Korean fishmongers are mostly used to process fish for sashimi and it takes a bit of explanation to tell them that I just want its guts removed and fins clipped. When I tell them that I’m gonna either poach or grill it, they (the “younger generation”) point to the frozen stuff on display (saying that its cheaper). Sometimes I entertain them with a smile, on most days, I just give them an irritated look. Interestingly, the older fishmonger always responds with a smile and respectful nod (which is returned with a smile and a slight bow!)Anyway, with my herb garden now producing a reliable supply of lemon thyme, I decided to test out my knife skills and filleted the fish. It was rusty but better than last week.
Few weeks ago on a blazing Saturday afternoon, I had a wonderful lunch at an Italian restaurant (Paolo DeMaria). This recipe is an homage to Paolo. The whole recipe revolves around one simple fact – don’t overcook the fish!
This can be tried with any flatfish. In fact, the fish can be baked whole and placed at the center of the table. It very healthy and if you’re trying to impress someone, give it a try! Anyway, its perfectly fine to try to on a less grand occasion.
- A whole flatfish or fillets (1 fillet per person)
- 2 large potatoes cut into 2 cm slices
- 2 medium sized onions sliced
- 3 medium cloves of garlic sliced thinly
- 1 inch piece of ginger sliced vertically
- About 10~12 cherry tomatoes (quartered)
- Some black olives
- Spinach (a medium sized bunch)
- 1 Lemon
- Capers (a handful)
- 1 Green chilly
- A sprig of thyme (lemon thyme if you have it) and parsley
- Good Olive Oil
- A small cube of butter
- Putting it together
- Boil the sliced potatoes for 10mins. Take them out of the water and put them in the fridge to stop the cooking process.
- Slice the onion and garlic. Sautee in butter with a half the thyme sprigs for 5 mins. Add some lemon juice, salt and pepper before taking it off the flames and set it aside.
- Wilt the spinach making sure that the leaves still hold shape.
- Pre-heat the oven to 240C and arrange the potatoes, onion/garlic and spinach at the base of the baking sheet. Place the fish fillets on top of this. Arrange the quartered tomatoes and olives around the fish. Tear up the parsley and the thyme and sprinkle it over the whole thing. Drizzle some olive oil, salt and pepper
- Cook till the fish is done (this one is a bit tricky to determine but I find one method quite useful). To start with the fish is somewhat translucent. As the heat penetrates the proteins, the flesh whitens up. If its an even sized fillet, then aim for a degree of whiteness that is somewhere in between the original color and chalk white. It should still have a "slightly wet look"
- At this stage, bring out the fish and continue to cook the veggies at full whack for 5~10 minutes more
Bed of potatoes, onion, garlic, ginger and spinach to lay the fish on
To serve, put the veggies on the base. Place a fish on the top and sprinkle with chopped green chilies, capers and a generous drizzle of good olive oil
I enjoyed it with a chilled Anthilia (Catarratto) from Donnafugata but it’d pair perfectly with a Sauvignon Blanc, a Reisling, a Chablis or more exotic stuff like a Verdejo from Spain. Personally, I think it might go with a lighter IPA as well but still learning in that department! Please add in your valuable suggestions in the comments section!