It is a fish tomato. ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

04 June 2008

It is a fish tomato.

It's sufficiently tomato season that I'm going to cook with them now, ok? Nobody smack me for not eating them raw like candy.

Provençaly fish with tomatoes and olives

a whitefish filet
some good tomatoes
a couple shallots
some green olives
olive oil
dry vermouth
salt, pepper

Essentially what we're going to do is reduce the vegetables in olive oil, then fry the fish.

So. Heat a little olive oil on medium in a wide sauté pan. Skin and chop your shallots, then add them to the pan. Chop your tomatoes into small chunks, then add them as well. You could do this with any kind of tomatoes; I had more of the big grape tomatoes, so I used about ten or twelve of them. Two or three regular tomatoes should be plenty. Just make sure they're good tomatoes! Get a handful of fat green cocktaily olives out, halve them, and chop the halves into chunks. Add them too. I only had four olives, which was okay but ultimately not pungent and olivey enough for my taste. Six or eight would be better.

Let everything cook together slowly for ten or fifteen minutes.

When the tomatoes have reduced a bit and the shallots are nice and soft, pull everything to one side of your pan. If there's not enough oil left in the pan, add a little bit more. Then salt and pepper your fish and lay it carefully into the pan. I had tilapia, which is both cheap and delicious; any whitefish filet sturdy enough to hold together should work out fine. I would definitely try this with some good perch, for instance.

Fish cooking time depends on the thickness of the filet. We cooked for four minutes, flipped the filet, covered said filet with the tomato and shallot, then cooked another four minutes. Watch your filet; when it turns opaque all the way around the edge, it is probably ready to flip. When the flesh is all opaque and flakes easily, it's done.

Lift the whole business carefully onto a warm plate, then pour any leftover vegetables on top. We had a little too much oil in the pan, so we tried to lift the vegetables out of it to serve. It sort of worked. To avoid this, nonstick pans are your friend.

Even with a nonstick pan, there should be a bunch of residue and possibly flaky fish bits left to deglaze. Put the pan back over the heat and add a slug of vermouth. This will instantly bubble and hiss. Immediately start scraping the pan with your spatula, getting every bit of stuff you can. Then pour the contents of the pan over your fish.

Eat it eat it! Fish must be eaten hot and now.

This stuff was hot and flaky and pungent and sweet. The tomato and shallot were sweet; the fish was sweet. The olives were pungent. For more dramatic pungent action, I would maybe add some capers or a big squeeze of lemon juice. It might also be interesting to experiment with deglazing; a sherry vinegar, actual cooking sherry, red vermouth, or even brandy deglaze would probably make the various sweetnesses really interesting and deep. Just don't inhale over the vinegar pan. Chemlab!

If you want to feed more than one person, it's probably easiest to bake the fish instead. You could just do a basic salt/pepper/lemon bake, and make the vegetables on the stove for serving. Or you could fill a big casserole with chopped shallots, lay the fish on top, then cover with chopped tomatoes and olives. Pour in some good vegetable broth, olive oil, and vermouth, and stick the whole thing in the oven to braise.


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