Originally Posted on September 14, 2011
I love fish. Always have. There’s no way that you could serve me fish that I wouldn’t devour it: raw, broiled, stewed, deep fried, air dried, whatever. It’s all good, all yum, all fantastic. Fish might be the world’s most fantastic ingredient, in all its magnificent multiplicity and grandeur.
Yet, I know a lot of folks who aren’t into fish. This can only be down to poor preparation. The one truism about fish is that you need to do as little as possible to it to coaxe the wonderful flavour and texture from within its flesh. And with all the varieties out there, there are as many ways to prepare it as there are fish in the sea.
I got so tired of writing bummer blogs last week that I decided to include on food entry this week, and this is it. This one comes to you courtesy of the Casa de Jones kitchen, and I hope you like it. The kids sure did.
Whitefish ragu with macaroni
– 500 grams of firm fleshed white fish (hake is good, cod is better)
– 2 small fennel bulbs, like baby fennel, fronds removed
– one small red onion
– three cloves garlic
– olive oil, as much as you like
– button mushrooms, like half a punnet or so
– 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
– 2 cups chicken stock (white wine is good too)
– 1 tin of whole peeled roma tomatoes
– 10 to 15 capers, drained
– enough macaroni to feed four people (so you have leftovers, silly)
Madness in the method:
Sweat them onion and fennel
Before starting, you must ensure the chi in your kitchen is just so. Therefore, mood music is of the utmost importance. For this dish, may I suggest some Raphael Saadiq, perhaps a dash of Menahan Street Band, or even some Mellow.
Alright. In a heavy bottomed pan (I use a dutch oven cuz they rule) bomb like a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium low heat. While this warms up, chop up your fennel and onion together, and then mince the garlic and chop up your mushrooms. When the oil is up to temp, hit the onion and fennel in there and stir it in, allowing it to go until it’s translucent. Toss in the mushrooms and stir in until they’re coated and beginning to give up their water. That’s when you toss in the garlic, not before. Otherwise you get burnt garlic, and that is not yum at all.
Stock at Casa de Jones is homemade and frozen in ice trays. That’s the funny blocky stuff you see it there.
When you can smell the garlic good and proper, toss in the tomatoes, give it a stir and pour in the stock or wine. Hit it with the smoked paprika. This stuff is magic. Go for the real deal, the picture above should set you on the right path.
Turn the heat down to medium low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a large stock pot with cold water and put it over the heat, crank it up to high. Make sure your fish is cubed into largish pieces. If you have a trusted fishmonger nearby, ask him to pick you out a nice, firm white fish for this.
Smoked paprika. Totally essential.
Once the ragu has simmered 20 or so minutes, throw in the capers and some of the reserved fennel fronds. Placed the cubed fish right on top of the ragu and push them down in a little and allow to simmer away slowly on one side for ten minutes or so.
When the water for the macaroni is up to a boil, turn the fish in the ragu over, crank the heat up in your dutch oven to medium and allow the simmer to come right up nicely in the ragu. Drop the macaroni in the water, stir well and let it cook.
Once the fish has cooked on the second side for about five or so minutes, remove from heat and drop a lid on it.
Check your macaroni every few minutes until it’s al dente, strain, pour in a tablespoon of olive oil, plate and add the fishy goodness and ragu. Yumminess has occurred. Rejoice with a glass of nice, crisp riesling (apple juice for the kids) and watch the grub vanish down grateful hatches. Perfection.