Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sicilian-style grouper

"Scrape up any brown bits." A recipe that says that is a recipe after my own heart.

This grouper recipe says that, and it's incredibly healthy and yummy, to boot!

This is the most labor-intensive fish dish during this fish-heavy week. (Still coming up we have mahi mahi and red snapper recipes.)

The recipe comes from Lidia's Italy, a cookbook whose dishes make my mouth water! The recipes are so very specific -- calling for, say, "hand-crushed" tomatoes -- but I trust whatever Lidia says because of the success I've had with her recipes -- especially my all-time favorite beef goulash recipe. (I will post that someday, I promise.)

Well, this is called "grouper matalotta style," and Lidia explains that "alla matalotta" can be done with halibut or striped bass or black bass. It's a dish rich with garlic, capers, and green olives. A true kitchen adventure for me! While I love green olives and capers in meals, I don't think I've ever cooked with them myself. And, I know I've never cooked with grouper.

Note: This recipe requires a heavy-bottomed sauce- or saute pan, about 13 inches wide with a cover. (Dan said that sounds like a Monty Python skit: "I've got a bit of heavy bottom sauce...")

I cut the recipe below in half for just Dan and me, though, so we didn't need a pan quite that large, but I used one anyway.

Grouper matalotta style (serves 6)
2 pounds skinless grouper fillet (halibut, striped bass, or black bass will also do)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
all-purpose flour, for dredging (about 1/2 cup)
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (let them sit for 10 or so minutes before using; their most healthful properties will be activated)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery hearts and leaves
1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste (I couldn't find these anywhere, so I left them out, unfortunately. I'm sure they gave a little zest to the dish.)
1 cup Sicilian or other large green, brine-cured olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons small capers, drained
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand (Lidia recommends San Marzano, a brand I found at Bloomingfoods, but I used chopped tomatoes)

3 cups hot water, or as needed
6 large fresh basil leaves, shredded
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley (I wasn't sure what Italian parsley was, but here it is:)

1.) Slice the grouper into six chunks, roughly equal in size. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.
2.) Pour the olive oil into the saucepan and put it over medium-high heat.
3.) Dredge the fish chunks in flour, shaking off the excess, and set them in the hot oil. Cook for about 1-1/2 minutes.

Turn them and lightly color the other side. Remove with a spatula and place on a plate.
4.) Scatter the onion slices in the pan, and stir, scraping up bits. Toss in the garlic and celery, stir, and season with the peperoncino -- if you have it -- and another 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir for about two minutes as they sizzle, then toss in the olives and caper, stirring until they sizzle.
5.) Pour in the crushed -- or chopped -- tomatoes and hot water. Turn up the heat, and stir until the liquid boils. Adjust the heat to keep it bubbling, and stir in the basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
6.) Lay the grouper into the sauce in one layer, pouring any juices that have accumulated on the fish plate. Make sure the chunks are nearly covered with sauce; add more water if necessary.
7.) Heat rapidly back to a boil, then simmer gently, partially covered. Shake the pan to distribute that sauce.
8.) When grouper is tender and sauce is slightly thickened -- 20-25 minutes later -- turn the heat off.
9.) Just before serving, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on top and sprinkle with parsley.
We had this meal with roasted lemon broccoli, a staple in our house, and I highly recommend warm Italian (or French) bread alongside to soak up the sauce!


JB Bruno said...

Thanks so much for posting this - just watched episode with it, and wanted to make recipe.

"peperoncino" is just crushed red pepper, which you shouldnt have too much trouble finding (they will almost never be labeled "peroncino") - its the same red pepper you find at a pizza shop

Nicole said...

I didn't know that! Thanks for the tip.