Merluzza en salsa verde is a traditional Spanish dish from the Basque region it consists of thick chunks of a fish called Merluzza, Hake in English, gently seared and simmered in a mixture of olive oil (lots of it), garlic (lots of that too) and parsley (yeap, also a healthy dose). It is also traditional to add some clams into the mix towards the end. The clams open up and release more of their aromatic liquor into the cazuela.
Speaking of a cooking vessel for this dish, a Spanish cazuela is traditional. The one I have is actually made in Portugal and bought at Sur La Table. It is basically a clay deep dish not too different from a Terracotta dish. The dish is glazed on the inside only and cooks the fish evenly and gently so the firm white flesh flakes but is still very juicy and luscious. My dish looks very similar to this one in shape and size (about 12 inches wide and 3 inches deep)
The recipe I used comes from Anya Von Bremzen’s fantastic “The New Spanish Table”. I fell in love with Spanish culture and it’s food after a short visit to Barcelona-Roses in 2005 to dine at elbulli, and this book with it’s lovely pictures, fantastic collection of recipes and very well written prose is a gem that always takes me back to the week we spent in Catalonia.
In my recipe I used the much easier to find and equally good Halibut. Also the day I shopped for it, the Halibut was so pearly white and fresh, it would have been a crime to pass it and use anything else. However, any firm fleshed white fish fillet, preferably on the thick side (at least 0.5 inch/1.5cm thick) should work.
Merluzza con Almejas en Salsa Verde
(adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anya Von Bremzen)
4 6-8 oz white fish fillets, at least ½ inch thick, 1 inch is even better (Halibut, cod, hake or mahi mahi are good options)
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Flour, plus extra for dusting the fish
6 Garlic cloves, minced
½ Cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 Cup white wine or vermouth
1 Cup fish stock, chicken stock or water
12 -14 manila clams, in their shell
1/2 Cup frozen green peas, thawed
– Pour the olive oil into the cazuela or pot and start heating it gently.
– Season the fish with salt and pepper, dust with a little flour.
– When the oil is hot, pan fry the fish for about five minutes on each side or till golden brown. Remove the fish to a plate and keep warm.
– Add the garlic and most of the parsley to the cazuela (reserve about 2 Tbsp of parsley for later). Cook till nice and fragrant, but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook for about a minute, make sure there are no lumps. Now add the wine and stock and bring everything to a gentle simmer.
– Place the fish and any of their juices back in the cazuela, roll them around to get them coated with the juices. Add the clams and peas and cover the cazuela and let everything simmer till the fish flakes and the clams are open. Remove from heat sprinkle with the reserved parsley and serve with bread or any simple potato dish to soak up the lovely juices.