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Mixed Fried Fish, or Il Fritto Misto di Pesce: Quick and Easy

Fish Fry: Enjoy!

Fish Fry: Enjoy!

If you have a deep fat fryer, fried fish is one of the easiest and quickest dishes one could possibly imagine, and wonderfully refreshing in the summer months. But there are a few requirements.

The fish must be absolutely fresh: Since there are no sauces — merely a little lemon and some salt — the flavor comes from the fish. Also, the oil must be fresh: Fresh oil does not impart flavors or aromas, and has a higher smoke point than oil that has already been used.

Fish Fry: Flouring the Fish

Fish Fry: Flouring the Fish

In this photo Alfonso Borrelli is flouring a mixture of squid rings and slices of swordfish fillet, which may sound extravagant, but are what the Osteria L’Antica Quercia had  – he was preparing the dish before the daily delivery of fresh fish, which takes place in the afternoon, to have it as fresh as possible for the evening’s diners. As a general rule he also adds peeled deveined shrimp, and small fry, tiny whole fish.

The flouring process is simple: Put small handfuls of fish in a fairly coarse strainer, and pull the strainer up through a bowl of flour while gently shaking it from side to side; the flour will coat the pieces evenly and the excess will fall away.

Mixed Fried Fish, or Il Fritto Misto di Pesce: Quick and Easy

Fish Fry: Frying!

Fish Fry: Frying!

The next step is to fry the fish. Alfonso uses a restaurant-sized frier, which is capable of frying larger batches. But a home frier will work just as well; set the oil temperature for 380 F (190 C) and fry the fish in small batches, for about 4-5 minutes — you will learn precise timing with experience.

While the fish is frying, Quarter several lemons, and lay sheets of absorbent paper – what’s called Carta Gialla, “yellow paper” in Italy, which is traditionally used to wrap foods – on the plates you’ll be serving the fish on (or your serving platter). The paper will look nice, absorb any oil still remaining on the fish, and also insulate the fish from the plate or platter, keeping it warmer.

Fish Fry: Turning Out the Fish

Fish Fry: Turning Out the Fish

When the time is up — 4-5 minutes — drain the fish well, turn it out onto the platter, lightly salt it, and enjoy!

The wine?  We had a Greco di Tufo from Mastroberardino, and it was perfect.

The Adriatic Fishermen’s Brodetto, Brodetto dei Pescatori dell’Adriatico

Brodetto is the traditional fish stew of Riviera Romagnola, what the fishing families would prepare from the fish they were unable to sell — fish that were small or bony, and didn’t have much market value. But they are tasty, and while the women prepared it at home, the men cooked it on the boats.

To serve 6:

  • 3 pounds (1 1/2 k) mixed fish  (kinds discussed below)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup strong vinegar
  • Abundant parsley
  • 3 onions
  • 1 cup extravirgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves Garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The fish should be what’s locally available, fresh, and inexpensive — no need for renowned exotics here. Rather, what is flavorful, and the fishermen use, among others, eel, sea mullet, flounder, squid, reef mullet, cuttlefish, and scorpion fish. Wash clean and scale the fish, cutting up the larger fish and leaving the smaller fish whole.

Mince the parsley and the garlic, and slice the onions. Put them in a large pot, with the olive oil, set the pot over a moderate flame, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent gold. Add the tomato sauce, vinegar, and 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) boiling water. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper, cover the pot, and simmer for a half hour. Add the larger pieces of fish, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, and then the smaller pieces, recover the pot, and simmer everything for a half hour more.

Serve the brodetto over slices of bread that you have either toasted or fried in butter.

A few observations:

  • Though vinegar was traditionally used to flavor brodetto, many now prefer to add dry white wine.
  • There are a number of local variations along the Riviera Romagnola
  • In Cattolica they omit both parsley and vinegar.
  • In Riccione they omit the garlic, parsley, and onions, and let the sauce cool before they add the fish and return it to the fire; they sprinkle red wine into it.
  • In Cesenatico they omit the onion, vinegar, and wine.

You are free to follow local custom or not; I think I would go with all the ingredients.

About Brodetto and Other Brodetti

Cesentatico’s Brodetto, Il Brodetto di Cesenatico

Brodetto is the Riviera Romagnola’s traditional fish stew, and as is true for all regional specialties, there are many local variations. In particular, Cesenatici use eels and star gazers. To serve four you’ll need:

  • 4 1/2 pounds mixed fresh fish (kinds discussed below)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • A scant half cup (100 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley
  • A tablespoon of white wine vinegar or a half cup of dry white wine (optional)

The fish should be what’s locally available, fresh, and inexpensive — no need for renowned exotics here. Rather, what is flavorful, and in Cesenatico they use, among others, the greater weaver, tub gunnard, scorpion fish, sea eels, star gazers, and cuttlefish; many also add anglerfish, mullet, baby squid, and mantis shrimp. Scale and clean the fish as need be, wash it well, and cut up the larger fish while leaving the smaller ones whole.

Mince the garlic and parsley, finely slice the onion, and sauté the mixture in a broad fairly deep pot; when the onion has become translucent gold add the vinegar or wine if you’re using it, and when it has evaporated, the tomato paste diluted in a couple of ladles of boiling water (you’ll want enough to cover the fish), and season everything with salt and pepper.

When the mixture comes to a boil add the fish, beginning with the cuttlefish and squid. Simmer them covered for 10 minutes, and then add the larger pieces, cook a little longer, and then add the smaller pieces, keeping the pot covered between additions.

Raise the heat to a slightly brisker simmer and cook ten minutes more, then reduce the heat to a slower simmer and cook another 20, removing the lid for the last 10 to let the sauce thicken.

Serve the brodetto over slices of toasted bread.

In terms of variations, many add either shrimp or scampi, and clams or mussels, though traditionalists frown at both of these additions.

About Brodetto and Other Brodetti

Brudet, the Brodetto of Bellaria-Igea Marina

Brodetto is the Riviera Romagnola’s traditional fish stew, and as is true for all regional specialties, there are many local variations. This is a fairly rich brodetto; to serve 4 you’ll need:

  • 4 1/2 pounds (2 k) mixed fish (see note below)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • A scant half cup (100 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley
  • A tablespoon of white wine vinegar or a half cup of dry white wine

The fish should be what’s locally available, fresh, and inexpensive — no need for renowned exotics here. Rather, what is flavorful, and in Bellaria they use, among others, cuttlefish, gray mullet, reef mullet, mackerel, bogue, scad, striped mullet, mantis shrimps (when in season), crabs, and sole. Scale and clean the fish as need be, wash it well, and cut up the larger fish while leaving the smaller ones whole.

Mince the garlic and parsley, finely slice the onion, and sauté the mixture in a broad fairly deep pot; when the onion has become translucent gold add the wine, and when it has evaporated, the tomato paste diluted in a couple of ladles of boiling water (you’ll want enough to cover the fish), and season everything with salt and pepper.

When the mixture comes to a boil add the fish, beginning with the cuttlefish. Simmer them covered for 10 minutes, and then add the larger pieces, cook a little longer, and then add the smaller pieces, keeping the pot covered between additions.

Raise the heat to a slightly brisker simmer and cook ten minutes more, then reduce the heat to a slower simmer and cook another 20, removing the lid for the last 10 to let the sauce thicken.

The major variation to this brodetto, enjoyed by some fishermen, was the addition of a few drops of vinegar and a finely sliced onion laid over the fish at the halfway point in the cooking — the onion made the dish seem sweeter.

Serve the brodetto over toasted bread, rubbed with a little garlic if you prefer.

About Brodetto and Other Brodetti

Sardine Brodetto, Brodetto di Sardoni

Brodetto is the traditional fish stew of the Riviera Romagnola, and it is usually made form a mixture of fish — whatever the fishermen were unable to sell. This is a single-fish variation for sardine season. To serve 4 you’ll need:

  • 3 pounds (1.5 k) fresh sardines
  • Olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • An onion, sliced finely
  • 3-4 canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped, and the canning liquid
  • Salt and an abundance of pepper

Begin by scaling and cleaning the sardines, and removing their heads. Wash them well, in sea water if you live near the coast in a place where the water is clean (the fishermen used to do this out at sea). Drain the fish in a colander.

Take a broad pot, set it on the fire, and add a little olive oil — just enough to keep things from sticking and burning — followed by the garlic, and the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent gold, and then add the tomatoes and their juice. Season to taste with sea salt (kosher salt will work well) and an abundance of freshly ground pepper. Simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes, covered, then add the fish and cook for another 7-8 minutes.

Serve the brodetto over toasted bread or with sea biscuits, and a light red wine along the lines of a Sangiovese di Romagna.

About Brodetto and Other Brodetti