This happened the other day, when I was at the Farmer’s market. There’s been a recent and much welcomed development at the market. A fishmonger has taken up one of the booths and so we are now getting incredibly fresh, local fish at reasonable prices. None of it is farmed, it’s all coming from the sea and it’s all delicious. The thing is, since it is dependent on an upredictable supply (that day’s catch) I’m never sure of what I’ll find. Add to that, the fact that usually, all the medium sized fish are sold out pretty early in the day. But that’s ok with me, since there is usually either squid or octopus to play with.
But those big fish that look like they could feed a family or two? Somehow they just seem like too much to deal with. In other words: intimidating.
I was thinking that the other day as I was ideally staring at some big, fat totally foreign (to me) fish. They were glisteningly fresh, and while I was tempted, I was also (I admit it) intimidated. First of all I had no idea what kind of fish they were, and so no recipe sprang to mind. Secondly, I just wasn’t up for roasting an entire fish (although it’s actually very easy). There was no reason for my trepidation other than a mixture of laziness, lack of inspiration and a hefty dose of intimidation.
And that’s when the jolly fishmonger came up and nudged me in the right direction. “How many do you want?!” he demanded. “Well, I’m not sure, cooking a whole fish….” I stammered. “No problem, I’ll fillet them for you. Then you can just roast the fillets on top of a layer of potatoes. Dinner’s done.”
Well, ok, if you put it that way.
And so there I was, agreeing to buy fish I didn’t even know the name of. They turned out to be palamite, a relative of the mackerel. They are also called sarda sarda, which I think is one of the greatest fish names ever.
In any case as he started to break down the fish into manageable fillets I realized that like tuna, and also mackerel, the flesh was dark and rich. One fish for the four of us was going to be way more than enough.
While the fishmonger worked on my fish, I headed across the aisle and picked up a kilo of new potatoes. Once home, the dish came together easily. As per his precise instructions, I sliced the potatoes and laid them on a cooking sheet, generously coating them with olive oil and salt. When they were about 3/4 way done, I places the seasoned fillets on top, finished cooking them, and that was pretty much that.
My intimidation had miraculously become dinner.
- 1 kilo / 2 pounds fish fillets or steaks (tuna would work fine, or if you can get mackerel, even better)
- 1 kilo / 2 pounds potatoes
- olive oil
- salt, pepper
- Preheat oven to 180C/ 350F
- I used new potatoes, so just scrubbed them until clean without peeling. Slice them into half inch slices and lay them on a cooking sheet. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, toss and salt generously.
- Place the potatoes in the preheated oven and cook until about three quarters done, about 30 minutes.
- In the meantime lightly coat the fillets with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the fillets on top of the potatoes and cook until done. Be careful not to over cook. It’s hard to give precise times, since different fish require different times. These took 20 minutes.
The Farmer’s Market is located on Via San Teodoro 74. It takes place Saturday and Sunday.
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