A while back I wrote about an exhibit in SoHo showcasing the great Ferran Adria’s notes and sketches. Instead of the usual food porn we see from other chefs, Adria’s notes are scientific, cultural, methodical, and utterly cerebral. Which was why his book entitled “The Family Meal” was surprisingly simple and home-y. I decided to try (and modify) one of the seafood recipes, having turned a casual pescatarian during the weekdays. I got a great deal on Bluefish at Whole Foods and after I snagged some ultra-rare organic rice from Ayesha’s farm in the Philippines, I wanted to see if I could make a Spanish, amped-up version of my childhood Pinamalhan, a Filipino dish consisting of fish slowly braised in vinegar until the sauce reduces and thickens.
My summertime slump continues and so I’ve begun to tone down the rich, hearty meals of winter in favor of something lighter and not as food coma-inducing. And with very few ingredients, this dish will really showcase that nice fish (no…you may NOT filet it!) you’re going to pick up this weekend. Here we go…..
1 whole fish (preferably of the white variety though I realize Bluefish isn’t….just don’t use Salmon or the red-hued ones), cut to fit pan
Whole bunch parsley, finely chopped (should be about 1 cup’s worth)
~1 tbsp. flour
2 – 3 Bird’s Eye Chili (any similar chili works), finely chopped
4 – 6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps. vinegar
1 shallot, minced
Salt & Pepper
1/2 a lemon (optional)
1/2 c. Fish stock (optional)
1) Heat your pan on high. Meanwhile, set your fish out, lightly pat dry, and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
2) Once your pan is hot, pour a bit of oil in and saute the shallots and garlic. Wait a couple of breaths then toss in 3/4 of the parsley just to give the firmer shallots and garlic to soften up a bit. Cook until fragrant (about 2 mins.).
3) Spoon in the flour and stir to coat the aromatics. Don’t cook for too long lest (such a good word “lest”, no?) you burn the flour. Turn the heat down to medium and pour in the fish stock (or water). This will thicken with the added flour. On a side note, I find this method much easier than what I used to do: dissolve flour separately in water before pouring into the pan.
4) Pour in your vinegar, chillis, and a good squeeze of lemon juice if you’re using. This isn’t in the original Adria recipe, but a good acid element will cut through the thicker sauce and is essential to the Pinamalhan.
5) Let the fish cook in the sauce for a good 3 – 4 mins. per side, pouring in a bit more stock or water if the sauce reduces too quickly.
6) Check the fish for done-ness by poking it lightly with a fork. Look for flakiness and white flesh all the way through. Once it’s done, sprinkle the remaining parsley on top. Plate the fish, drizzling a bit of the now spicy and thickened sauce on top and squeezing a bit more lemon if you’d like. Serve with some wilted greens or – Chef Adria forgive me – white rice.
*Seriously…check this book out. It’s very different from other cook books in that it talks a little bit about Adria’s methodical approach to cooking and creativity. The comprised are also set up in “meals” comprised of several dishes so no more hunting for individual dishes for your dinner parties. Not to mention he’s scaled them from small get-togethers to larger fetes, making this one of the most home cook-friendly manuals I’ve read so far.