Food Adventure in Rome: Buy a Fish, Get a Recipe!

When in Rome, do as the Romans, eat fish!  There are some remarkable places to buy fish.  Here's one that I really like, on Via Taranto, not far from the Church of San Giovanni:

Now this place is run by Renato and his sister and they're very enterprising: they've got two more outlets in Rome near the fish markets. But they keep rather unusual hours: they are only open on four days in the week, when there are fresh arrivals: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Also, they don't shut down for lunch as other small shops do: they stay open from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm, non-stop. All rather unusual. So is their fish display:

They sell every kind, from oysters, lobsters and clams to salmon, swordfish and red snapper, plus some bizarre looking fish you'd never think were eaten by humans (like the silvery snake-like thing on the right):

They're very friendly people, those fishmongers: the woman in particular is always ready to share her recipes.
Here she's busy giving advice to a client:

So I thought I'd take the plunge and try a fish I had never eaten before. I said I wanted to boil it and asked for the best kind of fish for boiling. I was told to get a "pezzogna", a Mediterranean fish with a pink tail and huge eyes.  You can see it in the picture above and here it is once I brought it home, up close:

Really big eye! It's close to 2 pounds, a good size for about 3 persons.

Now here was a fish I'm sure I've never had before and I googled it to try and figure out what it was. It turns out that this is a variety of red sea bream fished at great depths (some 600 meters) off the Campania coast - scientifically known as "pagellus bogaraveo". It has many other regional names in Italy: ochialone, occhino, mupo, rovello and besugo which is also the name it has in Spain.

Fortunately my lady fishmonger gave me her recipe for "Pezzogna in guazzetto" telling me "vedrà, è buonissimo!". "Guazzetto" is a word which indicates the fish is (metaphorically speaking) paddling in shallow water, i.e. there's plenty of cooking liquid but it's not covered in it - in short, it's not a soup.

I tried it and my fishmonger was dead right: it's absolutely outstanding! Here is how I did it. First choose a pan big enough so that your fish can lie flat in it, like the one I used here:

Put half an inch of water, salt, pepper, 4 or 5 slivers of garlic (peeled) and several red tomatoes cut in half (unpeeled), and a glass of white wine:

Cover and bring to a boil (At this stage you can also add a spoonful of olive oil if you wish, or you can do what I did, let your guests add olive oil to taste after the fish is cooked.) Once it's boiling, within a minute or so, the tomato skins can be pulled off very easily:

Now add the fish:

Cover and lower the flame so that it simmers. Leave it 15 to 20 minutes (check with a toothpick or a small fork - once the flesh near the spine moves easily, it's done).  At that point, take it delicately out, along with the tomato pieces, and while you clean it, let the cooking juices boil down (by about half) so that it will have a more concentrated flavor:

Once all set in a (warmed up) serving dish, along with diced boiled potatoes, I poured the cooking juices all over it and sprinkled it all with chopped parsley. Here's the result:

Absolutely buonissimo! As you can see, I served it with olive oil on the side and white wine. This is a recipe with several advantages: very easy to do and very light on your digestion. It really brings out the taste of the fish. I'm certain it works with just any kind of fish that lends itself to boiling...

PS for my readers who live in Rome: address of the fishmonger: Via Taranto 148, tel. 06 70399456. If you shop there, be sure to ask for their cooking advice!
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