Snapper alla Matalotta
Finding fresh whole fish in this city is a bit of a challenge, but when I find one that looks at me and says, “I was swimming in the ocean this morning”, I abandon any menu ideas that I may have had for that evening and bring that sucker home to my kitchen. My husband and I encountered this lovely creature a few weeks ago and though he had wanted to make fillets with saffron, I stomped on his toes, questioned if it was another man who had invaded my husband’s body and insisted that we buy this rainbow snapper and figure out some way to work saffron into it.
We did indeed find a way to use saffron with this fish, we found a wonderful recipe in a Slow Food cookbook of fish recipes from different Osterie around Italy. It is a great cookbook and we never use it. I have this thing about Italian cookbooks, they are wonderful for inspiration but if you really don’t know how to make something you aren’t going to learn how to make it by reading it from one of these books. There is the expectation that anyone reading them can quickly call mamma or nonna for the details that the book does not provide. And really shouldn’t you know how to make that anyway? What were you thinking reading this silly book?
These are total cultural differences, I know how to cook and I do have a mother-in-law I can usually call for the details for Italian recipes and a mama of my own for everything else. I know I can figure out how to fill in the details from these recipes, but when I am trying something for the first time, I like for the details to be given to me, ridiculous maybe, but after that I can adjust the recipe to my liking. It is really just my own laziness, so for all of the American cooks reading this, I have translated the recipe and filled in some of the details, a few measurements and steps that the recipe in the book does not provide.
Cernia alla Matalotta
from Ricette di Osterie d’Italia: il pesce. 600 piatti di mare di lago e di fiume Slow Food Editore
- 1 2.5 lb snapper, cleaned and scaled
- 2 onions
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- several sprigs of parsley
- 2 packets of saffron
- salt to taste
- red pepper flakes
Heat the olive oil in a roasting pan large enough to fit the fish over medium-high heat, you may need to straddle it over two burners. Sauté onion until transluscent. Add the snapper, douse it with the white wine and leave it to steam for a minute or two. Cover half of the fish with water and add the remaining ingredients, cooking it at a low flame for about 20 minutes. Spoon the broth over the fish several times to assure that it stays moist and cooks evenly. When meat in the center of the fish is opaque, clean it on a separate plate and serve.
Reserve the broth that the fish was cooked in and any fish that is leftover for risotto (I will post this in the next few days). If no fish is leftover, reserve the broth and freeze for a future risotto, this broth makes the most delectable risotto.
Two Years Ago: Orata alla Ligure, Pizza Bianca Farcita, Ziti with a Seafood-Fennel Sauce, Fruit Tart with Crema Pasticciera and Shortbread Cookies, Farfalle alla Nerano, Renella, Pizza & Zucchine alla Scapece