11.05.2016

Beautiful Broth & Fabulous Fish

I really miss the English language version of La Cucina Italiana. Does anybody else out there feel the same way? 

It was the one periodical I had found that gave a glimpse into the world of authentic Italian cuisine. I still wade through the Italian language online version, but it just isn’t the same.

One of my favorite features each month was a two-page spotlight on a traditional Italian ingredient. Fennel. Mussels. Artichokes. Saffron. It included a little history of each, its regional uses, and a "recipe."

Recipe is in quotes because the recipes were, in effect, non-recipes. They reminded me of my Gramma's recipe cards: a list of ingredients and little instruction. "Mix ingredients and cook until done."

For today's recipe, the ingredient was saffron. And the list of ingredients included onion, olive oil, tomatoes, fish broth, saffron, and firm white fish. I think the instructions were, "Make a rich broth and poach fish until done."

I’ve enjoyed this recipe for years, experimenting with the proportions every time. Its aromatic broth and beautiful color transports us to the Mediterranean. Here is my more detailed recipe, which I paired with a Château Margüi L'Or des Pierres white wine, from the Côte Varois. You can read more about this wine on the Provence WineZine.

~ David

Sea Bass Poached in Tomato-Saffron Broth

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
12 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
2 cups shrimp broth (or fish stock or water) *
1 teaspoon saffron threads
salt & pepper
4 6-ounce sea bass fillets **
1 tablespoon snipped chives

Heat the oil in a very large (12" or larger) skillet. Sauté the shallots till clear but not brown. Add the wine and reduce by half ‐‐ about 5 minutes over medium‐low heat. Add the bay leaf, cherry tomatoes and shrimp stock; bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Add the saffron, salt and pepper and simmer 3 minutes. (Can be made 4 hours ahead up to this point. Return to a simmer before adding fish.)

Arrange sea bass fillets in a single layer on top of broth, cover and cook for 2‐3 minutes. Turn fillets, cover and cook 2 more minutes. (Timing will depend on the thickness of your fillets - the fish should flake easily with a fork.)

Divide sea bass fillets among four large, heated soup plates; spoon broth and tomatoes over top. Garnish with chives.

Serves 4.

* Whenever I peel raw shrimp, I place all the shells in a resealable bag and keep it in my freezer. In addition to the shrimp shells, I also add pieces of shallot, onion, carrot, celery, and fennel. Then, when I need shrimp stock, I fill a saucepan with frozen shells and vegetables, and add water, a little white wine, salt, peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, and a few sprigs of thyme, and boil it down. For this dish requiring 2 cups of shrimp broth, I use 3 cups of water and reduce it to the 2 cups I need. This ensures the concentration of the flavors. Simply strain and use.

** Grouper - or cabrillo - also works well. This dish requires a firm, white-flesh fish that will hold up to poaching.



33 comments:

  1. I love the color the fish takes on. What a beautiful dish!

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    1. The color of the fish and the broth are just beautiful - and the taste, too!

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  2. I do, I do! I so miss La Cucina Italiana magazine, but I still get their Italian email subscription. I do have to admit, it's good, but it's not the same as perusing a magazine.

    I know the "recipes" you speak of as my mother's Cucchiaio D'Argento cookbook has every recipe in this style, in Italian, so it's a bit of a stretch for me to try to make their baked goods! haha!

    Your fish sounds awesome, and looks that way, too, David! I could go a plate of that right now, but instead I'll have to make do with a bratwurst sausage from TJs (at least it will be in a homemade ciabatta roll)! :)

    Buon appetito!

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    1. I get the online version, too, Christina but it really isn't the same. Even the Italian print version is better. Sigh. My cousin wrote a rant to me this morning about how Condé Nast ruined the magazine - funny thing is that I didn't have any idea he read it!

      I would love to see an old Italian version of Cucchiao d'Argento. I can only imagine the baking would be a nightmare!

      Supper for us tonight is homemade tomato soup - I got several pounds of the most beautiful San Marzano tomatoes at the market this morning. Not what I was planning, but I was thrilled to see them!

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  3. On the docket for tonight!!!

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  4. Even though we are not eating much fish right now, this looks so delicious! I wish we could get good, fresh fish here in the Rockies. The only fish we eat now is trout from the lake right up the road.

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    1. When you commented last week, this is the recipe I thought went love - I was a week off! (All my posts except two are done through January!) So you can imagine why, at first, I was puzzled by your reaction to the post. Eventually I realized it was the jerk pork! This is a much healthier meal to have! :)

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  5. How beautiful! Even if one didn't like fish one would be tempted to make this just for the colors.

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    1. Thanks, Carol. Yes, the color is beautiful!

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  6. My mother-in-law's recipes listed ingredients but not much more info, she was the best cook and baker. Love how you poached the fish and your instructions for making shrimp broth is wonderful. Thanks David!!

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    1. Shrimp broth is one of my favorite tricks. And so much better than anything on the market! Thanks, Cheri - I hope all is well in Phoenix!

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  7. Now this has got some gorgeous flavours in it. I can see just by reading the ingredients. Shrimp broth, yes please! And so nice to see you reserving your shells for later use. Such a waste, otherwise!

    I could do with a big bowl of this here in Ushuaia. I need some warming up!

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    1. I had no idea it was cold down there, although it makes sense when I think about it! Shrimp shells are my best friend!

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  8. What a lovely colour, this is just the thing for an autumn evening.

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    1. Thanks, Caroline - saffron is such a luxurious color, isn't it? And, yes, this is perfect for an autumn evening.

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  9. I love this post. So many points reflect that we are indeed in a different period of history--fewer print publications and, I think, fewer folks cooking so that general 'instructions' are required. Just yesterday, I heard on NPR that fewer millennials go to the grocery store in comparison to past generations. Your post whet my appetite for more cooking and, in particular, making this recipe. You know I love the wine!

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    1. I am so glad you and Towny had a chance to make this. Did you have enough broth? Did you like it with the wine? What kind of fish did you use?

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  10. I miss the La Cucina Italina magazines, it had great recipes. Your fish broth is great and so is your dish. I can't wait to make it.

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    1. It really was a very special magazine. I am getting out all my old issues to reread and cook through. SO glad I saved them! Thanks fro your sweet comment, Gerlinde!

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  11. This just sounds like one flavorful dish, David. It is truly beautiful food! I'm so glad to have your recipe/tip for making shrimp broth. Sounds amazing and I can't way to try it. Thanks for sharing it. :)

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    1. We all eat with our eyes first, right Marcelle? I think that is why this appeals so much to all - it is a beautiful dish.

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  12. It was a great publication, and I was honored when they named me as an Italian food ambassador. Still not really sure why they shut down. Such a shame...

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    1. How wonderful,. Frank - a well-deserved honor. I am now remembering the day before their redesign when they only featured Italian-American chefs, and the food wasn't so authentic. Perhaps it was the authentic version that killed the magazine. People really still don't understand Italian cuisine...

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  13. I still have a few old CI magaziñes tucked away. I think I have even made some version of this dish before. What I remember most was the photography from that mag. There was something unique and inspiring about it. GREG

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    1. Yes, the photography was pretty wonderful in CI. I really liked the authenticity it brought to our understanding of Italian cuisine.

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  14. I have shrimp broth in my freezer! Last year I started doing (more or less) what you described with shells (after doing it with meat bones for years). I was wondering what to do with it... (And I am glad you provided more precise instructions than your inspiration did)

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    1. Thanks, Inger - glad to know I am not the only one with a "collection" in my freezer!

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  15. What a fantastic way to prepare and serve fish, David. I bet it's met with oohs and ahs whenever you bring it to the table.
    I've heard it said that Italian cuisine is the cuisine of Nonne, its recipes being handed down by word of mouth from our Grandmothers. That was certainly the case in my family. In many cases, I was the first to record our recipes and getting precise measurements were a real chore, to say the least. I can still hear the exasperation in Mom's voice as I asked, again, just how much was "a handful" or what does "eyeball it" mean?
    Like you, I've a bag of shrimp shells in my freezer, as well as one for veg clippings. There's another with Parmigiano Reggiano rinds and another with rinds from Pecorino Romano. There's an assortment of frozen herbs, as well. I'll have a breakdown if I ever lose power for an extended period.

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    1. Thanks, John - it will always be one of my favorite dishes!

      Yes, I think you are right about la cucina delle Nonne. Many of the Italian recipes I have from my uncle's family are written the same way... and it works, if you have watched them.

      You know, for all the bags of fun stuff in my freezer, I never freeze herbs - and it's probably because most of our herbs are fresh in our garden year round. That is the moment when I feel I am the luckiest man on earth!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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