Fish stuffed peppers are the rage in Spain and there are quite a few renditions. Here the use of small Piquillo peppers is best, cut in half, stuffed and served as part of the Tapas repast. However, there is nothing amiss if you select to stuff the normal sized peppers and serve as a main course, as Piquillo peppers are hard to come by. This recipe is rich and delectable, one I’m sure you probably haven’t sampled before, unless you have lived in Spain.
PIMIENTOS RELLENOS DE MERLUZA – SPANISH COD STUFFED PEPPERS
1 small carrot – chopped finely
1 medium onion – chopped finely
2 minced shallots
½ LB of fresh cod or hake
1 bay leaf
½ cup of white wine plus about 2-3 more TBSP
¼ cup of chopped parsley
2 TBSP brandy Cognac or bourbon
1 beaten egg
7-8 Piquillo peppers whole
OR 4 regular size – tops and cores removed
1 ½ TBSP butter
1 TBSP APF
Some fresh grated nutmeg
6 TBSP of milk and 6 TBSP of the cooking liquid from poaching the fish (equals to about 1 cup)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked white pepper
Place the whole Piquillo peppers in a roasting pan lined with foil and lightly oiled. Roast for 17 minutes at 375F and then turn and roast the other sides for another 17 minutes. Place a bowl over them (like a dome) to steam for about 10-15 minutes, as this will allow them to sweat and it will be easier to remove their skins. (SKIP THIS STEP IF USING REGULAR SIZED PEPPERS)
In a skillet sauté the carrot with the ½ of the onion for about 5-8 minutes. Add ½ cup of the white wine and reduce by half. Add the fish filets, previously seasoned with salt and pepper to the skillet. Incorporate the bay leaf, some parsley and barely cover with some water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 12 minutes covered. Remove pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
Shred the fish in a bowl removing and bones, reserving the onions, carrots and cooking liquid. Discard bay leaf.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add some shallots – cook for a minute and add the APF. Whisk until the raw smell of the flour has gone about 1 minute or so. Gradually add the liquid (equaling to about 1 cup) whisking to obtain and smooth sauce – neither too thick or too thin in consistency.
In the same skillet add some olive oil and sweat the remaining onion and shallots till wilted. Add the shredded fish and mix. Incorporate the Cognac and carefully ignite and when the flames have subsided add the 3 TBSP of white wine. Reduce by half and remove from the fire to cool down. Add the contents to a bowl and mix in half of the white sauce and the beaten egg with some salt and pepper.
In a food processor add the reserved cooked onion, carrot, some parsley, half and one of the roasted peppers, the remaining stock and béchamel. Mix well until a creamy sauce has formed.
Stuff the peppers with the fish mixture and add the sauce from the food processor in a shallow ovenproof casserole placing the peppers on top. Don’t add any of the sauce over the peppers because they won’t brown.
Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes. Serve garnished with parsley. They can be eaten warm or at room temperature, Tapas style.
Piquillo peppers are hard to find in the States, as they are most popular in Spain. If using regular sized peppers, then omit the first roasting step. After filling them, thin the sauce with a bit of chicken stock and add to the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Place the peppers on top, standing up and braise them covered for about 1 hour or so till the peppers are tender but not falling apart.