Need an Easy Weeknight Meal? Make Pescado con Sofrito

Chef Katie Button prepares the simple recipe on this week’s episode of Chefs at Home.

Pescado con sofrito
Photo: Whitney Anderson

The ideal weeknight meal has several qualities. It must be fast (we're talking around an hour or less), simple, and, of course, satisfying. On this week's episode of Chefs at Home, Katie Button—chef and co-founder of Cúrate and La Bodega by Cúrate in Asheville, North Carolina—makes a meal that checks all three boxes. This recipe, like the others in her shows, is based on sofrito, one of the foundations of Spanish cuisine. Button starts by making the aromatic sofrito, and then uses it in her Pescado con Sofrito, a quick poached fish dish. The caramelized, rich flavors of the sofrito are the perfect balance to white fish, especially when combined with white wine and fish stock. As a bonus, you'll have extra sofrito leftover, which you can use in soup, beans and rice, and her other two recipes in the series.

The whole recipe, sofrito included, takes just over an hour from start to finish. Want to make it this week? Read on for Button's step-by-step method and follow along with the video below.

First: Make the Sofrito

The sofrito acts as the base for the sauce Button pairs with the fish. She learned how to make sofrito from a fisherman in Catalonia, and her recipe calls for just five ingredients—ripe medium-sized red tomatoes, grapeseed oil (or another neutral-flavored oil), olive oil, finely chopped yellow onion, and finely chopped garlic. Start by grating the tomatoes on a box grater until only the skins remain (you can discard those). Then, heat up the oil in a large skillet and cook the onions until they are deeply golden brown. As Button notes, make sure the pan doesn't get too dry, or you'll risk them burning and sticking to the bottom. Just add more oil as needed while the onions cook.

The garlic goes in next, followed by the grated tomato. You'll want to cook the mixture down, stirring occasionally and then often, until it reaches a point where it's "really dark, rich, brown, [and] kind of reddish," Button says. Don't forget to deglaze the skillet with some water so you can scrape up all of those delicious browned bits. Stir until the water has evaporated, let the mixture cool, and voila—you've got sofrito.

Turn it into Pescado con Sofrito

Once the sofrito is done, you can make the fish and sauce in minutes. Button uses golden tilefish fillets for this recipe, but any white fish fillet, such as sea bass or cod, will work. (Just make sure your fillets are skin-on.) Pat the fillets dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture; this will allow the skin to crisp up nicely in the pan. Season the fish with kosher salt while you get your oil nice and hot in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fillets skin-side down to the pan. Use a fish spatula to lightly press the fish down (this will prevent it from curling and help it brown evenly). After cooking a few minutes on each side, remove the fish and transfer it to a plate so you can get started on the sauce.

All you need for the sauce is some sofrito, white wine, and fish stock. After it's reduced and thickened, add the fish back in, skin-side up, so it can simmer and finish cooking. To serve, divide the fish and sauce among shallow bowls and finish them off with a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

"The fish skin is crispy, the fish itself is flaky, and the sauce has this creamy, rich quality with a nice acidity," Button says after trying the dish. "It's really, really quite delicious."

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