Ah brodetto! Imagine a day spent sailing along the Adriatic, the beautiful calm basin of the Mediterranean Sea, then docking your boat in the evening and coming to shore to sit and enjoy the fruits of the ocean at a small seaside restaurant. You would most likely be introduced to a dish that many locals there feast on during the cool summer evenings, brodetto. A brodetto is a type of brothy stew – think simpler bouillabaisse. Fairly popular in the Adriatic region, namely the coastlines of Italy and Croatia, a brodetto is the perfect elegant late summer recipe that you can use to prepare your favorite fish. The following is a classic brodetto found along the Adriatic that utilizes the local fish, branzini. However, you can replace the branzini with just about any fish you like; you may even use shellfish, which is very common.
What is great about living in Queens is that even though you are part of a large Metropolitan city, it is easy to imagine being part of neighborhoods from around the world because of all the different ethnic varieties we have. Even walking along the coastlines of Queens, from up around College Point and Whitestone to down by Far Rockaway, it is easy to imagine that you are somewhere else. Yes, let’s face it, the East River is by no means a replacement for the Adriatic Sea, but there is no harm in stretching the imagination a bit.
Adriatic-style Brodetto with Branzini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
5-6 tomatos, chopped (you may subsitute canned, chopped tomato)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Vegeta*
4 Branzini fillets
1/4 cup chopped parsley
*Note: Vegeta is a Croatian spice blend found in most supermarkets. (See linked article.) If you can’t find Vegeta, by all means, don’t fret; simply season with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the chopped onion. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped garlic and saute for a minute. Salt and pepper this mixture. Next, add the chopped tomato and oregano, and stir to combine. Allow the juices of the tomatos to pick up any bits off the bottom of the pan. Continue to deglaze by adding the white wine. Add the water and the Vegeta and stir everything to combine. Simmer the brodetto for half and hour to break down the tomatos and combine all the flavors.
Taste the brodetto. The tomatos should be broken down, and the sauce should be light and brothy with small chunks of vegetable. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the fillets of branzini. Continue cooking until th fish is fully cooked, about an additional 10-15 minutes. Top the dish with the chopped parsley.
You may serve the brodetto on its own or accompanied by a bowl of creamy polenta, as is a popular pairing in the Adriatic. You may also consider pasta or roasted potatos on the side. Some form of starch would be good to soak up all the juices!