Friday, February 17, 2012
Pretty Please, With Puttanesca On Top?
Puttanesca Poached Cod to a friend who was unfamiliar with the sauce. Once I described it, she realized she’d had it before and loved every spoonful. Translating “puttanesca” from the Italian ruins this post’s G rating, but you’ll understand, once you make it—that its strong flavors and aromas merit a little passion. PUTTANESCA is chopped garlic, diced onions and anchovies (omitted for the Neapolitan version) sautéed in olive oil. Many puttanesca sauces add chili peppers, olives, capers, diced tomatoes, oregano and sprinkle of fresh parsley.
That being said, my puttanesca sauce is NOT Neapolitan. It takes it’s cues from the Southern Italian way of doing things and features 7 whole ounces of scrumptious sardines. You cook those first, until they melt. This fish recipe may well be the ultimate “date night” entre. There’s just something so…I don’t know…SEXY about it. For starters, making a special grocery store run for the ingredients is fun! You grab a little basket rather than a cart, and fill it with the few ingredients that go into a dish with a surprising complexity of flavors. Unless it’s already in a pantry that Austin Powers—or anyone with Mojo would approve of—you buy a little red wine, Kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts, 28 ounce cans of tomato, capers and sardines before stopping for your premiere ingredient at the seafood counter.
Fresh cod filets cost around $10.99 per pound, but satisfying your loved one at dinner is priceless. The fish monger wraps the cod in a neat little bundle and hands it to you the way counter service at a Parisian boulangeries wraps your pastries. Viola! You are now ready to go home and get cooking!
Adding the same wine you will drink later on with your meal is a fun addition to this cooking process. I happened to have a huge carafe of Carl Rossi Paisano when I made this; it’s not the fanciest to be sure, but for the price you can’t beat its nice accompaniment to all fish and chicken dishes. It can be really divine, this beverage, when served at room temperature.
I’ll leave you with a few variations on my puttansca poached cod that will fire your imagination for future dinners: serve the fish and generous ladles of its sauce over a bed of homemade mashed potatoes or crispy garlic bread; a bed of whole-wheat spaghetti also works beautifully. In the umpteen times I’ve made cod a la puttanesca, I have noticed that it doesn’t come out identical each and every time. Sometimes the sauce is super saucy, and one needs to eat it with a spoon. It almost reminds me of a Fast and Furious Fish Stew; however this dish turns out, as you sip red wine and take your sweet time in creating it, it is always deeply nourishing for stomachs and hearts alike. Enjoy, my friends…