Putanesca…….cha cha cha! hot, hot, hot. Putanesca, in the vernacular, translates as ‘in the style of the whore”. There are plenty of stories regarding the source of the recipe but it is a classic sauce from Naples. Originally, it was a tomato based sauce of olives, capers, anchovy, spicy pepper flakes, garlic, lemon and parsley. Simple enough. Pulchinella and the Sacre Corona would be proud of you. I want to bake codfish in this style.
I’m diviating a little from the classic recipe but really not too much. I went with some sun-dried tomato instead. I used salted capers instead of brined capers. I used Taggiasca olives packed in oil. I traded in the garlic and used scallion or spring onion instead. Lastly, I omitted the anchovy. No reason, I just did’nt have them, the boat left without them, as it were. But, if you are going to use anchovy, make sure to use the salt-packed anchovies. Now, that’s an anchovy.
For my Putanesca on this day, given available ingredients and motivation, I wanted something less saucy or soupy. I baked the fish, cod, in a clay casserole dish, covered, with a splash of white wine and olive oil. This takes minutes at 450 F. You do not want to overcook the cod and have it be all dry and chewy.
Even here, the fish is a tad overdone. You can see the white fish juice. This is what has happened in simple terms. Heat causes expansion and as the fish cooks, it’s protein fibres expand. This expansion or opening of the fibres is what is causing the moisture content to be expelled. You don’t just want to have all of it’s juices leach out. Then, the fish is tough, chewy and dry. You want the fish to be moist and melt in your mouth. I think I have just squeaked in under the fence. Just add olive oil and lemon.
Every good Putanesca needs a good or interesting counter……….or encounter, as the case may be. Well, I love rutabagas. I smashed them, black peppered them and finished them with olive oil and spring onion. Punishment beating delicious.
Home made Irish brown soda bread……..it never looks the same twice.