The traditional Basque dish that inspired this recipe, merluza en salsa verde, consists of hake (a flaky white fish similar to cod) pan-cooked and topped with a thick sauce of parsley mashed with garlic. Chefs Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak recast the classic by lightly poaching the fish in an ethereal clam broth and transforming the sauce's components into airy distillations: the parsley into crunchy sprigs, the garlic into light, crispy wafers.
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Twenty 2-inch, three-pronged parsley stems
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup water
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
Four 6-ounce, skin-on cod or hake fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Ham Powder and Garlic Wafers, for garnish
How to Make It
Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Fill a small bowl with ice water. Blanch the parsley stems in the boiling water until they turn bright green, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the stems to the ice water, then drain and pat dry. In a small bowl, drizzle the parsley stems with a little olive oil to keep them moist.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the minced garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and cook, shaking the skillet a few times, until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a plate, leaving their juices in the skillet.
Season the cod fillets with salt and pepper. Add the fillets to the clam juices in the skillet. Cook over moderate heat, turning the fillets once, until the flesh is white throughout, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the cod fillets to plates with the broth, then sprinkle the fish with some of the Ham Powder. Arrange the clams in their shells and the parsley stems around the fish. Lean the Garlic Wafers against the fillets and serve.
The Basque flavors in this cod and garlic dish naturally call for a classic Basque white wine like Txakoli (pronounced CHA-co-li).
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