Zuppa di Pesce
I wasn’t so sure about this recipe when I read it in Lidia’s regional Italian cookbook, but felt compelled to try it since it was from my beloved Basilicata. I do love the idea of a fish soup, and since zuppa translates as soup, I figured that I would be having something similar to that, but despite the label given, I would hesitate to call this soup. There is cooking liquid, yes, but the majority of it is absorbed by the grilled bread at the bottom of the bowl.
Regardless of its misnomer, this zuppa di pesce is delicate and absolutely delicious. It is really something that could be served in a fine restaurant even though its fisherman roots are from one of Italy’s poorest and least populated regions. There is a complex simplicity in the pungency of the white wine, the freshness of the scallions layered with the delicate flavor of the fried fish.
Zuppa di Pesce
adapted from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
- 1 pound grouper fillet, with skin
- 1 pound monkfish fillet, membrane removed
- 1½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging the fish
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- ½ tsp peperoncino flakes, or to taste
- 1½ cups white wine
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 2 bunches scallions, trimmed and chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
Cut the grouper and monkfish into six portions each (twelve pieces in all), and season with salt, using about ½ teaspoon. Spread the flour on a plate, and dredge all the fish pieces, lightly coating all sides. Meanwhile, heat a couple of cups of water to simmer in a small pan or kettle.
Pour the oil in a big saucepan, set it over medium-high heat, scatter in the garlic and peperoncino, and cook for a minute or so, until they are sizzling. Quickly lay the fish pieces in the pan in a single layer, shaking off any loose flour before they go in, and placing the grouper pieces skin side down. Leave as much space as possible between the pieces. Without moving the pieces, fry the fish on the first side for about 2 minutes, until a light crust forms. Flip the pieces over, and fry the second side for 2 minutes or so, until lightly colored and crusted, then remove all the fish to a large plate.
Raise the heat, and pour in the white wine and 1½ cups of the hot water. Drop in the thyme sprigs and the remaining salt, and bring the liquids to a boil. Let them bubble for 5 minutes or so, until the volume has reduced by about a third.
Lay the fish pieces back in the saucepan, toss in the scallions, and simmer for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Sprinkle the vinegar on it and chopped parsley; stir and swirl the pan to blend them with the zuppa. Turn off the heat, and serve immediately in warm shallow soup bowls: lay a piece of grouper and one of monkfish in each bowl, and spoon some of the sauce over them.
If you toasted or grilled bread slices, set a bread slice in each bowl first, then lay the fish pieces on top. (I highly recommend the bread slices)
One Year Ago: Nasi Goreng