Admit it. The title got your attention.
I’ve been taking a cooking class this month, four lessons of exclusively fish and seafood recipes developed by a local chef named Sauro Ciani. Needless to say, I’ve enjoyed myself. This recipe, from our first lesson, calls for grouper fish (cernia), which was not available at the fish counter I frequent so, per Sauro’s recommendation, I used an even funnier-named fish, tub gurnard, or tub fish (gallinella) instead.
700 grams (1 & 1/2 lbs) grouper or tub fish fillets
700 grams of boiled potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
2 yellow onions
1 clove garlic
1 bunch of fresh chives
1 bunch of fresh parsley
8 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 Tbls olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes with the skins on until they are al dente (cooked but still firm, not mushy). Drain and let cool. When cool enough, peel off the skins and slice the potato into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Set aside.
Prepare the fish. Rinse the fillets. Using a sharp, long knife, slice the fish into small ‘scallop’-shaped pieces, working with the natural structure of the flesh (not against), and at a low angle, almost sideways. As you proceed, most of the skin of the fish will come away pretty easily, but don’t worry if some remains. It will fry up nicely. You will have several scallops roughly the same size as your potato rounds. Flour both sides of the scallops in rice flour and leave aside, directly in the flour on a plate is fine.
Peel and thinly slice the onions. Rinse the parsley and finely chop it together with the garlic.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. When the oil is hot start frying the potato slices. When the first side is golden, gently flip the rounds and sprinkle with some of the parsley and garlic. (You might end up doing this step more than once, depending on the size of your pan, so do not necessarily use up all the parsley on the first round of frying). When the second side of the potatoes is golden, lift out the rounds, place them on a paper-towel covered plate, and dust with salt. Keep going until all the potato slices are cooked.
In the same pan begin frying the scallops of fish. You might need to add more oil. Cook for about four minutes on each side, or until very golden and slightly crunchy. Remove to paper and salt.
Still using the same pan, fry the onions (lower the heat a bit). While these are cooking, begin making the towers. On a serving platter, prepare a layer of potato rounds. Then, on top of each round place a slice of fish. Keep ‘building up the tower’ until you have finished the ingredients, checking on your onions periodically while you do so. Don’t worry if your towers are neither entirely vertical nor immune to toppling. When the onions are golden and slightly crunchy sprinkle them on top of the towers, now garnish with the thyme and/or chive.