Cod Fish Livornese

Cod Fish LivorneseThe Internet is a wonderful resource for cooks but it is not without its pitfalls. Search for a classic dish and you will find dozens of recipes most using different ingredients and techniques. But read through enough of these and usually a pattern will emerge. Take this classic fish dish from the Tuscan port of Livorno. Some recipes have you fry the fish, some do not; some bake the dish, others not; some have potatoes, some not. What is consistent, however, is that all contain tomatoes, olives, and capers. Some recipes use the tomatoes chopped up while others use a tomato sauce. I chose the latter because I happened to have some marinara sauce in the refrigerator. Another feature of the dish is that it usually contains a fair bit of olive oil. While some call for the oil to be poured over the fish I opted to blanch potatoes in it to reduce the baking time and minimize the chance that the fish would dry out. Caution: do not be tempted to top this dish with Parmesan; Italians never use cheese with fish.

Ingredients

  • 2 6-ounce cod portions, thawed if frozen, sliced if thick
  • 12 ounces potatoes sliced about ⅛-inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 to 8 anchovy filets (optional)
  • ½ cup black or Kalamata olives, halved
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups marinara sauce
  • Shredded basil leaves to garnish

Method

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Heat the oil in a large skillet until a potato slice dropped into it immediately sizzles. Add the potatoes one slice at a time in one layer. Fry for about 3 or 4 minutes, turning once, until they are lightly browned but not crisp. Remove to a colander to drain and cool. Repeat until all the potatoes are done.

Put the onions into the hot oil and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and squeeze out as much oil as you can. Set aside.

When they are cool enough to handle, arrange half of the potato slices on the bottom of a small baking dish, overlapping them. Spread the onions over the potatoes. Place the fish in a single layer over the onions and distribute the anchovies on top of it. Sprinkle the olives and capers over the dish then cover with the rest of the potato slices. Season with salt and pepper. Finally, pour over the marinara sauce to cover.

Bake in the hot oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until a thermometer stuck into the fish reads 140°. Garnish with the shredded basil leaves and serve immediately.

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