Assorted Fish in Peppery Sauce (Zarzuela)
Author: Barbara Norman
  • 6 crayfish
  • 12 prawns
  • 30 mussels; cleaned
  • 6 small squid; cleaned
  • 12 slices two kinds of firm white fish; center slices (halibut, haddock, sea bass)
  • 1/2 Cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion; minced
  • 3/4 Cup canned tomatoes; forced through sieve
  • 4 dozen toasted hazelnuts; peeled
  • 3 small cloves garlic; peeled
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 10 drops Absinthe or anise flavored liqueur (or a pinch of aniseed)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 Cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper; or more to taste
  • salt, to taste
  1. Cut squid in rings. Open mussels by shaking them in a pan over moderate heat. Strain juice through a kitchen towel for use in sauce. Wash crayfish and prawns, but do dot peel.
  2. Brown onions slowly in olive oil. Increase heat, add tomato, and let it cook 1 minute. Season with pepper. Add slices of fish with squid cut in rings. Spoon sauce over them and let them cook over a rather hot fire.
  3. In a mortar, crush the hazelnuts with the garlic and parsley to a smooth paste (or mix in an electric blender with 1/2 cup water). When the fish has been cooking 4 to 5 minutes, turn it over. Season with salt. Two minutes later, add the strained juice from the mussels, 1 cup cold water, and the prawns and crayfish. Cook 2 minutes more. Add cooked mussels.
  4. Dilute contents of mortar with 1/2 cup water. Add to sauce in pan and stir. Add water if necessary to prevent sauce from sticking to bottom of pan. When the slices of fish are tender, remove them to a warmed serving dish. Sprinkle liqueur over the sauce, stir it well over heat, and pour the contents over the fish in the serving dish.
Recipe Source: THE SPANISH COOKBOOK by Barbara Norman

Comments: This recipe is a Catalan version of Zarzuela from Restaurante Pi in Vendrell (Tarragona). The Basques also make Zarzuela, but use cognac instead of absinthe and cayenne instead of ground white pepper. Either version requires five or more varieties of fish and shellfish.

The dish is only good prepared and served at once, but it can be made in 20 minutes, start to finish.
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