Recipe for that Bouillabaisse-y Fish & Pasta Thing I Make Sometimes

June 28, 2007 § Leave a comment

As with most dishes in my repertoire, this is flexible. It’s roughly based on a sublime lunch I once had at Deco, but it has completely morphed now into something more suited to the way I cook. Please feel free to adjust on your own. Use all or none of the optional ingredients, and if you’re having a nice Chardonnay, Viognier, or Riesling with your supper, add that with the tomatoes as well. If using butter, reduce olive oil to two tablespoons.

4-5 garlic cloves (or use 8-10 of the smaller fiddly cloves from the middle of the head) papery skin removed, but unpeeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into ¼ inch slices, then quartered
½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme (optional)
1 pinch saffron threads (optional)
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
2 heaping fistfuls spinach
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (minced) or basil (torn in a frenzy when the food is already on the table, as at my house)

4 fillets of firm, white fish (sole, haddock, tilapia)

to serve:
1 lb linguine or other flat, skinny noodle

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the garlic cloves and a drizzle of water (about 1½ tablespoons), cover, and let steam for five minutes or so. This is a modified pan-roasting technique; very convenient for quick, summer pastas.

When they’re softening, scoop out the cloves and set aside. Add two tablespoons olive oil and the tomatoes, salt, thyme, fennel, and saffron (if using). Let them sit and cook a few minutes before stirring.

Put a pot of salted water on for the pasta. By the time it boils and your pasta is cooked, the fish and sauce should be ready, too, or close. Remember to use lots of salt in the pasta water.

Now the garlic should be cool enough to handle, so peel the cloves, cut off the rooty bits on the ends and toss them back into the sauté pan with the tomato mixture. Gently stir (flip, really) the tomatoes, to help them along, then let sit four or five minutes, till it’s simmering and reducing. Clean your fish in the meantime, if you haven’t already.

Add the fish fillets and remaining olive oil (or butter if you’re using that instead) to the sauce, scooping some of the tomatoes over the top. If some of your fillets are thicker than others, put them in first for two minutes before adding the rest; you may want to (gently!) flip them when you add the others.

COVER* and let it bubble away for 4-5 minutes, until fish is getting opaque, then add spinach and cover again, for another 1-2 minutes. It should be quite soupy, but if you think it’s too wet, remove the cover and let it reduce a little while the spinach cooks down. Taste for salt! Last chance!

Hey, grind in some pepper, too!
Now, plate your pasta, ladle out some sauce on each portion (be liberal), then add the fish and spinach on top. Sprinkle over the parsley or basil, and you’re done. Pretty, isn’t it?

*A note on covers. I don’t have one that fit on top of my biggest sauté pan, but that doesn’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you. Just gather what you need to cover (as much as you can) under the biggest cover you’ve got and call it tickety-boo.


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