Psari Pikti

Terrine of Fish with Leeks, Orange and Lemon

FISH TERRINES are found on many Greek islands. For this one from the island of Chios, the fish is simmered in a fragrant broth of orange and lemon juices, seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, saffron and bay leaves. In my version, I have substituted a combination of orange juice and zest for the Chian bitter oranges.

This recipe is a wonderful illustration of many influences, both Eastern and Western, that come into play in this part of the Aegean. The original that inspired my version, attributed to Marianthi Kalouta, was published by Vasso Kritaki, a passionate Chian researcher, in a booklet she wrote tracing the influences of Chian cooking in Turkey.

Only seven miles of sea stand between the Turkish coastal city of Çesme and Chios Town. Chian upper-class families like the Kaloutas often had close ties with Greeks living “on the other side” in Turkey, while women from the poorer villages of Chios found work in the homes of the wealthy residents of Izmir (formerly known as Smyrna), a once-flourishing cosmopolitan city a few miles north of Çesme. Greeks and Turks lived and prospered side by side in this beautiful city until 1922, when war broke out. After the Greeks were defeated in the last Greek-Turkish war, the armies of Kemal Atatürk almost completely destroyed Smyrna. Its Greek inhabitants, together with the Greeks living in the other towns of Turkey, returned to Greece as refugees.

Serve the chilled terrine as an appetizer, accompanied by steamed potatoes, beets and Swiss chard or other greens dressed in a simple lemon vinaigrette. You can also omit the gelatin that sets the terrine and serve the fish and broth warm in bowls as a fish course.

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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 leeks (white parts plus 2 inches of the green parts), halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide slices
  • 1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • cups fish stock or bottled clam juice
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, or coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds firm-fleshed fish fillets, such as cod, mackerel, halibut, haddock or monkfish
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • A few sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3–4 thin orange slices, quartered

Method

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil and sauté the leeks and onion over medium heat, stirring often, until just soft, about 4 minutes. Add 1 cup of the wine, the stock, pepper, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cloves and saffron, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are very tender.

Add the remaining 1 cup wine, the orange zest and juice, lemon juice and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, add the fish and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the fish to a plate and set aside. Boil the broth for a few minutes longer to reduce it until you have about 3 cups broth. Remove from the heat.

Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and puree the broth mixture in a food mill or food processor. Pass it through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all the juice. Discard the solids. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings.

Place ½ cup of the broth in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup of the broth. Remove from the heat and add the gelatin-broth mixture and stir to dissolve. Stir into the remaining leek broth.

Pour about ½ cup of the broth mixture into a rectangular, oval or round mold. Arrange the parsley and orange slices in an attractive pattern in the broth mixture. Place the mold in the freezer for 10 minutes, or until the liquid is set.

Meanwhile, add the fish to the remaining broth mixture and let cool completely.

Remove the mold from the freezer and pour in the fish mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or until set.

To unmold, dip the mold briefly in hot water and invert onto a plate.

Variation

Omit the gelatin and serve the fish and broth as a soup, adding some steamed potatoes, carrots and spinach or Swiss chard leaves.

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