Pescado a la Española

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This is a popular Chilean method of baking fish in herbs, really a creole dish, despite its name. You can use any type of fish, and it's an excellent way of preparing Chilean sea bass or salmon.

A word about Chilean fish. Chile is a major fish exporter, due to its long coastline and large Austral fisheries. Many of its fish are "sashimi grade", meaning highly prized in Japanese fish markets, and the most important of these is the Chilean sea bass. Now the Chilean sea bass is neither bass nor exclusively Chilean, as its habitat is the entire Southern Ocean (Austral Sea), the cold, deep waters encircling the continent of Antarctica. Its Australian name is Patagonian toothfish, and in Chile it's known both as mero (grouper) and merluza negra (black hake), even though it's neither grouper nor hake, but its own species. Because of its sashimi quality, most of its fisheries have collapsed due to overfishing, leading to a call by some groups (such as Greenpeace) to boycott the importation of Chilean sea bass to the U.S. However, most U.S. importers of Chilean sea bass buy their fish only from managed fisheries.

Other well-known Chilean fishes are the congrio (conger eel or kingclip), merluza (hake or whiting), and reyneta (regneta). These smaller fish are very flavorful, and almost always served pan-fried. If you find them locally (flash-frozen), try them.

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Pescado a la Española

Chilean fish baked in aromatic herbs

*Serves 6*

3 filets of a large fish (or 6 small filets, but large bake best) 1½ t salt
1½ t herbs de provence
1 c white wine
¼ c lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 large onion, halved and sliced
3 tomatoes, sliced
½ red bell pepper, sliced into strips
½ green bell pepper, sliced into strips
2 T butter

Preheat oven to 425°F(220°C).
Rince the fish filets and pat dry, and season with 1 t salt and 1 t herbs. Butter a large glass baking dish and arrange filets in dish, pouring over half (½ c) of the wine and all of the lemon juice.
Meanwhile, slice the onion, tomatoes and bell peppers. Sauté the opnions and bell peppers in butter until soft. Add the tomatoes and sauté another minute, adding the remaining salt and herbs. Add the wine and bring to boil for about two minutes and remove from heat.
Place the fish in the oven for about five minutes, until lightly golden. Add the sautéed vegetable mixture to the to the top of the filets and bake another 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook.

By Marcela Otaegui and Francisco Bañados