Merluza a la Vasca (Basque-style Hake)

Recipe and photos contributed to Hispanic Kitchen by Veronica Shine

Nestled in northern Spain, the word uttered in the ancestral Basque language of Euskara for “hello” is “kaixo.”

No one knows where this unique, ancient language originated. Except for a few words borrowed from Spanish or French, it sounds like something from well beyond Europe, its harsh phonetics and words full of K’s and X’s sending a clear signal it has no relation to the Romance or Germanic tongues.

There is, in fact, a longstanding joke that outsiders cannot understand Euskara and find it impossible to learn. Legend states that only the fish in the sea can communicate in this strange tongue while welcoming the seafaring men to obtain the best catch.

In addition to its verdant vistas, picturesque villages, hills dotted with tiny farms and rich cultural scene, the Basque region offers exceptional food, and in particular, seafood fare such as “Merluza a la Vasca,” or Hake, Basque-Style.


Known as “Koskera” in Basque, this is a typical seafood dish from the region. The simple recipe offers the opportunity to affix your own individual creative cooking personality by adding other ingredients, such as clams, shrimps, tomatoes or string beans. Traditionally it is cooked in a clay dish in the oven, but a standard glass casserole bowl will suffice. This quick, delicious meal takes less than 15 minutes to cook.

Number of Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

• 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
• flour
• 8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
• 4 hake steaks
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 1 cup of water or stock such as clam broth
• 8 tbsp chopped parsley
• 1 pkg. cooked pea
• 2 dozen asparagus tips (either white or green)
• 3 hard boiled eggs – quartered
• black pepper
• salt

Steps:

1) Purchase hake in fairly thick cut steaks or in fillet medallions. You can substitute hake with cod, salmon or swordfish steaks. Salt the fish and let sit for 15 minutes and then dredge in flour.
2) Pour the olive oil into a heat-proof casserole dish and place it over medium heat. Add the pieces of fish and quickly brown the fish on both sides.
3) Place in the chopped garlic and immediately the white wine.
4) Do not stir but shake the casserole while adding water until the sauce has a consistency of thick cream.
5) Add the cooked peas and garnish with the cooked asparagus tips and hard boiled eggs.
6) Season with salt, pepper and parsley and serve.

 

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