Fish in Crazy Water

Pesce in Acqua Pazza

MS_Recipes_Acqua_Pazza.jpg

From the region of Campania and a classic of Neapolitan cooking, this recipe is all about a great piece of fish cooked in a wonderfully simple way. At the beginning of the cooking, everything in the pan is fairly dry, but by the time the fish is cooked, there will be a simmering bath of acqua pazza—crazy water. Serve with roasted or steamed potatoes.

For 4 main-course servings:

  • Four 6-ounce pieces skinless halibut filet

  • fine sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper

  • 2 large peeled garlic cloves

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling

  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe, red tomatoes

  • about a tablespoon of chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • about a tablespoon of rinsed capers  

Take the fish out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. 

Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. 

Lightly crush the garlic cloves and put in a sauté pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer.  

Add the olive oil. Heat the pan over medium heat.  

Gently shake the pan when the garlic starts to sizzle then tilt it so the cloves are immersed in a pool of oil at one side. Hold the pan over the heat until the garlic is lightly browned.  

Lay the pan flat on the burner and carefully place the fish in the pan, skin side down.  

Tilt the pan so you can spoon some of the garlic-infused oil on top of the fish.  

Add the tomatoes and a couple tablespoons water. Season with salt and pepper.  

Add the parsley.  

Cover the pan and adjust the heat so the liquid in the pan is gently simmering. 

Mince the capers and add after a few minutes of cooking.  

Continue to simmer the fish, covered, until it is opaque and slightly firm about 3-4 minutes or when the fish registers 125°F (52°C) with a thermometer.   

Transfer the fish with a slotted spatula to serving plates.  

Spoon the tomatoes and “crazy water” in the pan over the fish.  

Drizzle a little olive oil over each serving.  

Serve.  

Chef’s notes: This is a perfect way to cook lean and delicate fish like halibut, snapper, grouper, or bass. Use tomatoes that are mature but not too soft. By rinsing off the capers, you will get seasoning from the capers, not the flavor of the brine.  

Photo by Paul Moore