No matter what name its called: San Pietro, St. Pierre or John Dory, this is one honkin' ugly fish!
This wacky fish is found in the Mediterranean and it must also live in the Adriatic, because the fish monger from the Adriatic had a few at Wednesday's market. Truly I’ve never seen such an ugly fish and I had no idea what it was until I asked it’s name and then it clicked. The fish is relatively expensive but supposed to be delicious and this one wasn’t so big, so I decided to give it a try. Except there was no way I was cleaning it, I wouldn’t have known where to start! It had long flexible fin spines coming off the back and shorter, meaner ones off the belly, then a row of thorns (!) along the tail. All chatter at the fishmonger stopped as everyone gaped at this ‘brutta’ monster. As usual, the fishmonger gave me a recipe for cooking this precious fish, she suggested a simple brodetto (fish soup) with pieces of the fish served in the soup. She was right…the fish was delicious and after it had been steamed in the soup broth, it was fairly easy to separate out 4 nice size fillets. This would also work well with a flounder type fish, but you need to adapt it a bit if you are using boneless fillets.
1 San Pietro fish, whole
or 4 flounder small flounder fillets, enough for 2 people
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped.
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 stalk of fresh fennel, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
few strands of saffron
1 glass of white wine
dash of white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Take 1/3 of the glass of white wine and add your saffron strands to the wine and let steep.
Using a flat pan, large enough to hold the fish, soften all of the vegetables, except the garlic and tomatoes in 2 T of olive oil. When the onions, celery and fennel get all soft and comfy, and a little sprinkle of salt will encourage the vegetables to relax, then add a dash of white vinegar, wait a moment and add the chopped tomato, garlic and remaining 2/3 glass of wine. Bring to a simmer. If you are using a whole fish, add the whole fish to the broth and cover. Gently simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the fish is cooked. If you are using fillets, don’t add them just yet. If it looks like you might need some more moisture, add a small amount of water, it will depend on how ‘juicy’ your vegetables are, so you’ll have to judge for yourself, but you want a thickish broth.
Remove the whole fish from the broth and set aside, keeping it warm.
Puree the remaining broth and vegetables. I poured everything (but the fish!) into a container and then used an immersion blender, but a food processor will work just as well. The immersion or stick blender is just quicker and easier to clean. Place the broth back into the pan and bring back to a gentle simmer, adding the remaining saffron infused wine. If you are using fillets, gently add them now. Check to see if you need any additional salt or pepper. If you have a whole fish, filet it and place in the bottom of a warm bowl. Add the pureed broth, grab a piece of bread, a crisp white wine, like a Tokai Friuliana or unoaked chardonnay and dig in.