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Apulian Cooking
Red mullet with tomatoes An exquisite dish when made with freshly-caught red mullet, preferably off the Gallipoli rocks.
It can also be used as a sauce to dress a dish of Foggia-style troccoli
by Dario Ersetti
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Red mullet with tomatoes. Photo by Dario Ersetti

   4 servings:

 

- 1 Kg of red mullet (weight after filleting about 400 grams)

- 10 “fiaschetto” tomatoes

- 1 bunch of parsley

- 1 clove of garlic

- 5 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil

- half a lemon

- salt

- pepper

 

      Vincenzo Corrado from Oria in Salento, in his book Il cuoco galante, which was already in its fourth edition in 1793, and who, despite being familiar with the tomato, didn’t team it up with other ingredients except as a sauce, writes “the best red mullet are the ones caught off the rocks from May through October”. (Just for the record, the three first editions of the time sold 4.500 copies!).

      Red mullet with tomato is a simple and quick dish which brings out the taste of the fresh fish. If we can get hold of the red mullet from the rocks off the Gallipoli coast we’ll have the achieved the utmost.

      Instead of cooking it whole we should fillet it, so as not to have the annoyance of the bones, especially if we’re thinking of using it as a sauce to dress the pasta (we advise troccoli). The result will be a unique dish in all senses.

      Instead of red mullet you can use similar fish like the blackbelly rosefish or the angel fish.

      This is the procedure: fillet the red mullet, boil and peel the tomatoes and cut them into quarters.

      In an earthenware pot sweat the garlic in hot oil and then take it out. Throw half of the chopped parsley into the oil and let it sizzle. After 30 seconds add the red mullet fillets and brown them on both sides. Add the tomatoes and the juice of half a lemon and cook for five minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Finally add the remaining chopped parsley.

      If you decide to use the red mullet to make the sauce 9 or 10 red mullet from Gallipoli should be enough, depending of course on the dimensions, because the fillets should weigh about 400 grams altogether.

      An ideal combination is troccoli, a kind of large, homemade spaghetti made with durum wheat and water, a traditional recipe in Foggia, copied from neighbouring Abruzzo, brought by shepherds’ transhumance. In Abruzzo they are made with the traditional utensil called a “guitar”, while in Foggia they use a grooved rolling pin called a troccolaturo.

      The consistency of the troccoli, softer than the usual spaghetti, goes well with the solid flesh of the red mullet. Enjoy!

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