I sometimes find myself driving home from work with no idea what I’m going to be making for dinner. That happened to me yesterday. I was leaning towards fish and then I remembered a dish my mom used to prepare all the time. Baked mackerel in a white wine and tomato paste sauce. I headed over to our local fish market.
A quick call to mom.
During the drive, I called mom for a quick list of ingredients. She gave the list and explained her process to me. It’s really cute… I can usually hear my dad in the background whispering additional instructions to my mom. On this call I could hear him saying, “tell him, not too fatty…and make sure they clean the fish well” and other tidbits of advice.
It’s extra funny for me when I hear this, because my dad’s never been very comfortable in the kitchen…but he likes to share his wisdom when it comes to cuts of meat or working with fish. I guess those tasks were always his contribution to our meals…plus, fishing and working the land are kind of in his blood. And nowadays, I think he gets a real kick out of knowing I’m preparing traditional foods that I grew up with, and which he loves.
No Mackerel? Now what?
I got to the fish market and immediately noticed they only had one mackerel left. Definitely not enough for all four of us. This fish market is fantastic; it’s clean and has a nice variety of fish. One thing though, they don’t carry a lot of fish that’s typically caught and prepared in the Azores.
So now what? I checked out their other options. Fortunately they have the fish names in English and a few other languages. I noticed the name “Robalo” on the bottom of the label for their European seabass. I recognized that name! I whipped out my phone and gave my mom another quick call. Woot-woot! She conformed I could use that fish with the same recipe.
A very nice dinner!
The recipe was a hit. The house smelled amazing while the fish cooked and the sauce was so delicious! It really brought me back to my childhood home. That’s such a sweet feeling.
Whole fish was ‘normal’ for me, and even for Liz (who was born and raised far from any coast but whose Portuguese parents also cooked fish like this). My boys, however, are pretty normal North American kids — who are used to living far from the ocean — and who are used to being served boneless filets of fish. Surprisingly, they did very well with eating around and picking out fish bones…and they seemed to really enjoy the fish!
I’ll be cooking whole fish more often. It tastes great and it’s so healthy. We need this now and again…you know… to balance out our treats and indulgences.
Enjoy something different with your family tonight, and remember to always eat well, friends!
Baked European Seabass, Portuguese Style (Robalo)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 3/4 cups white wine
- 3/4 cups water
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 tbsp sweet pimento paste
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
- 84 grams sweet Portuguese chouriço
- 3.7 lbs European seabass (3 fish), cleaned with the head on
- Preheat the oven to 375 ºF
- Pour the oil in a large pyrex baking dish and spread it along the bottom.
- Spread the sliced onion and garlic evenly over the oil on the bottom of the baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the wine, water, tomato paste, sweet pimento paste, cumin, cinnamon and salt.
- Place the three fish on the bed of onion, side by side. Leave a little space between each one.
- Cut three cross slits on each fish, one near the head, one in the middle and one closer to the tail.
- Cut the piece of chouriço in thin slices and then cut the slices in half.
- Place a slice or two of chouriço in each slit that you cut in the fish. Spread the other pieces around the fish.
- Pour the wine sauce over the fish. Make sure to get the sauce over the entire fish.
- Place the baking dish in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes.
- Take the fish out of the oven and serve it hot with a favourite side.
- If you're using larger fish than the ones we used, let the fish bake another 5 to 10 minutes.
- Click the link if you're not sure what sweet pimento paste. If you can't find any, you can omit this from the recipes and it'll still taste great.
- For the chouriço, feel free to use the spicy version if you like a little kick.