Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Halibut “Spetsiota” Style
A few weeks ago we received another package of filets of line-caught, wild Alaska coho salmon and halibut from Sitka Salmon Shares, the completely integrated boat-to-doorstep seafood company. The fish comes flash-frozen from Alaska and all you have to do to enjoy it is thaw it in the refrigerator for a day or so, then cook the fish whichever way you like.
So, I decided on cooking one of the traditional Greek fish dishes from the island of Spetses that uses any fresh, firm-fleshed fish such as grouper, bream or cod either fresh or salted etc. baked with fresh tomatoes, garlic and herbs and bathed in a dry white wine. Both Jonathan Swift and Klemens von Metternich have been credited with “Fish should swim three times; in water, in butter and in good wine” but it is also a well-known Polish proverb. So I thought the halibut would be a perfect dish to make the Spetsiota dish.
In my late teens, I spent a number of summer vacations at Spetses Island. At the time, it was one of the “places to be” for upper middle class Athenian families who would rent for the months of July and August houses in or near the main town. The island is famous for its naval tradition; many of the captains of the Greek fleet and the merchant marine were schooled at the local Naval Academy.
During my early stays I was taught how to swim and, later on, I got my PADI certification there. But in my mind Spetses is significant because there is where I met a number of the “loves of my life”. Every summer there was a different “love”, as new families came to the island and all teenagers spent our time swimming in the morning and dancing to “American music” in the evenings.
I owned a portable record player and we would stack 45s (anyone remembers those?) to listen to the Andrews Sisters, Fats Domino, The Platters, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley etc. and dance on the beach. Ah… the not-so-innocent days of youth!
But I digress…
The recipe for Fish Spetsiota Style follows.
2 lb. firm-fleshed fish
3/4 cup mixture of melted butter and high quality extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped fine
11/4 lb. ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced in thick slices (diced canned, fire roasted tomatoes are fine as well)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 tsp dry oregano
1 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
3/4 cup dry white wine (in a Greek recipe book “non-resinated” is boldfaced). Mine is usually Soave or Albariño
Plain bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste.
Lightly salt the fish and let it stand, refrigerated, for 30 minutes.
In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, 2/3 of the parsley, oregano and wine to make a topping and let stand for a half hour. Preheat the oven to 360F.
Season the fish with a little additional salt and pepper. Place in a lightly oiled baking dish. Spoon the tomato topping over the fish and top with the breadcrumbs. Drizzle with the balance of olive oil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the fish is fork tender, the tomato topping dense and juicy, and the breadcrumbs golden. Sprinkle the balance of the fresh parsley on top.
Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with bread, a baguette preferred, to sop up the juices.
As an alternative I sprinkle Parmesan flakes or crumbled feta cheese on top of the breadcrumbs.
For a recipe using the coho salmon, please see Salmon Soup.
For further information or to order your own fresh seafood click https://sitkasalmonshares.com/
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