Psari Filleto me Aginares

Cod with Artichokes

IN HER BOOK on wild greens, Myrsini Lambraki gives a recipe for fish fillets cooked with wild artichokes. She writes that the dish was traditionally prepared with salt cod in the high plains of Ziros on Crete, where there is an abundance of thorny wild artichokes in the spring. Substituting baby artichokes for the wild ones produces an equally memorable dish.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with plenty of crusty bread to dip in the marvelous lemony sauce.

Ingredients

  • quarts cold water
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 12 baby artichokes with stems
  • ½ cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed (fronds and tender stalks reserved), halved and very thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 4 scallions (white and most of the green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
  • About 1 cup fish stock, bottled clam juice or water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cod fillets or thick steaks, halibut steaks or haddock, scrod or sea trout fillets (1½–2 pounds total), rinsed and patted dry
  • ½ cup chopped fresh fennel fronds plus tender stalks, or fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water (optional)

Method

Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze the juice of the 2 lemons into it (reserve the lemon quarters). Trim the stem of each artichoke to about 1 inch, then snap off the bottom three rows of leaves, rubbing the cut surfaces of the artichokes frequently with the squeezed lemon quarters as you work. Cut off the tips of the artichokes. Halve the artichokes and rub generously with the lemons. Using a knife or a grapefruit spoon, remove the choke from the center of each artichoke. Place the prepared artichokes in the lemon water.

In a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat ¼ cup of the oil and sauté the fennel bulb and onion over medium heat until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions and sauté for 2 minutes more. Add the artichokes and the remaining ¼ cup oil and toss to coat. Add the wine, increase the heat to high and cook for 1 minute. Add the lemon juice, enough stock, clam juice or water to cover and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the artichokes to a plate, cover and set aside.

You should have about 1½ cups liquid in the skillet: if not, add a little more stock or water. Bring to a boil, add the fish and cook for 10 minutes, or until just cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice if needed. Add the artichokes to the skillet. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the fennel fronds or dill for garnish and sprinkle the artichokes and fish with the remainder. Cook for about 1 minute more, until the artichokes are heated through.

Add the cornstarch mixture, if using, to the skillet, stir, bring to a boil and cook for about 30 seconds to thicken the sauce.

Sprinkle with the reserved fennel fronds or dill and serve.

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