I grew up eating hearty meat stews and oven roasts throughout the cold Massachusetts winters. Fish was more of a summer dish– freshly grilled and served with vegetables from the garden. It wasn’t until I moved to Spain that I fully appreciated the versatility of fish for winter meals. And as much as I enjoy a good pot roast, these days I’d much rather dive into a plate of this hake with cider and apples, served over piping hot olive oil fried potatoes.
Hake, merluza in Spanish, is part of the same family of fish as cod and haddock, and perhaps so popular because of cod’s unfortunate overfishing (and subsequent surge in price). Spain eats a lot of hake– over 13 pounds per person per year, which is the highest amount in all of Europe! It’s a delicious fish when treated well, and a must try when visiting Spain.
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 crisp apple (Granny Smith or Gala work well)
- 7 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
- 2 dried cayenne peppers
- 1.5 cups of peeled and chopped tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon of sugar
- 1.5 cups of hard Spanish cider (dry style cider)
- Salt to taste
- 4 6-ounce pieces of hake (if you can't get filets you can make the recipe with daditos, chunks of fish)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Add about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a heavy skillet-- cast iron is perfect. Heat to medium and add the chopped onion. Fry until translucent and just starting to color (about 10 minutes).
- Add the garlic paste and dried cayenne peppers and sauté for about a minute.
- Add the tomato, tomato paste and sugar and lower to a light simmer, stirring every few minutes until the liquid from the tomatoes has reduced about halfway.
- Add the cider and bring to a bubbling simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Season the hake with salt and dredge in flour. Fry in a pan of hot olive oil (it should be as hot as possible without smoking to allow for a good sear). You don't ned to fully cook the filets if they're thick-- just make sure to sear well on both sides.
- Add the fish to the cider sauce, and cook at a slow simmer for another five minutes.
- Serve with hearty bread or homemade potatoes, and enjoy with a bottle of Spanish cider from Asturias.
Do you have a hearty fish recipe for winter? Share it in the comments!