Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baked in Butter

I constantly hear people say that in Italy diners never have cheese with fish or seafood. Spaghetti with clam sauce in authentic restaurants is more likely to be topped with toasted breadcrumbs. To some extent it's true. In some traditionally poorer regions (Sicily and Puglia for example) cheese was just too expensive and less available than fish. But on the small island of Sardinia where sheep are nearly as plentiful as treats from the ocean (and preferred among the locals), traditional dishes -- like the one that inspired James' dinner tonight -- combine the fruits of the sea with the rustic products of the rugged terrain, wild herbs, butter, and tangy, strong, almost funky pecorino cheese.
In a buttered baking dish I lay filets of sole, each one folded over a nice big pink shrimp. I scattered a few extra shrimp around the dish and covered everything with slices of butter (about 3 TB all together), leaves of thyme (about 2 tsp), 1 TB chopped parsley, S&P, and drizzled it all with about 2 TB of olive oil. I baked the dish for 10 minutes at 350ยบ until the fish was just cooked through, scattered the top with about 1/3 cup of shredded pecorino cheese (I had pecorino Romano instead of pecorino Sardo as this dish would authentically used have but the end result is just as delicious) and placed it under the broiler for 2 minutes until the cheese was just toasted. The success of a dish this simple relies solely on quality of ingredients used, use good oil, good cheese, nice sweet butter.
"This is really good, just perfect," James muttered between bites. It's the first time I've ever heard that for a fish dinner -- it must be the cheese.

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