A few months ago, right around Valentine’s Day, one of my coworkers asked me for some advice on making paella, and if I’d mind lending him a cookbook with a recipe in it. That night found me pulling my various Spanish cookbooks and reviewing the paella recipes contained therein; I wanted to give him one that was authentic but presented in an accessible way. I ended up bringing in my copies of The Barcelona Cookbook and Made in Spain for him to peruse, and between the two he was able to cobble together a recipe that would work for him.
My point of this story? When I went and pulled all of those cookbooks off the shelves, I realized I had upwards of at least fifteen dedicated to Spanish and//or Catalonian cooking. And that only counts the books we keep downstairs–the less-often used go upstairs in our loft “library.”
Common sense, recollection, and this blog’s archives tell me that I shouldn’t be so surprised by this, but I am all the same.
This dish comes from one of the very first Spanish cookbooks I ever bought, an impulse purchase while browsing the aisles at a Crate and Barrel. I’ve featured it here before–the Catalan meatball soup is a favorite of mine–but lately I’ll leave it be in favor of other books that have more refined or unique versions of the dishes contained in its pages. But two weekends ago I revisited it for the first time in months, and when I found a frightfully simple pan-fried trout recipe with bacon, I knew I had Wednesday’s dinner set.
There’s not much to it: take a cleaned whole fish (head and tail removed), and dust it with some seasoned flour. Then season the belly and stuff it with slivers of garlic. It’s fried in the rendered fat from some pancetta chunks, then removed and served with said cubes of pancetta, some parsley, and some wedges of lemon.
Served with a big salad, the fish above was enough to satisfy both of us, even if one had just gotten home from a serious session at the gym.
Pan-Fried Striped Bass
adapted from Spanish Country Kitchen
- One striped bass, fully dressed (head and tail removed, gutted, and scales removed)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- About 1/4-1/3 lb of pancetta, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, slivered
- 2 tablespoons of parsley, chopped finely
- Olive oil
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Kosher salt and pepper
In a small, non-stick pan, slowly cook the pancetta with a tablespoon or so of olive oil until the fat has rendered out and the pieces are crispy; drain, set aside, and keep the fat in the pan.
Place the flour onto a plate and season well with salt and pepper, and dust well on both sides. Season the belly of the fish with salt, and place the garlic slivers inside. Bring the pork fat in the pan up to medium heat, and carefully cook each side of the fish for 3 minutes on each side. Bring the heat up to medium high, and cook each side again for an additional two minutes. Remove the fish, drain the fat, and quickly re-heat the pancetta until warm; top the fish with the pancetta and the parsley, and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve immediately.