Luccio alla mantovana (Pike cooked in the Mantova way)
Cooking: 25 minutes
Whenever and wherever I made this dish, I feel at home, in Lombardy, the region I come from. When I was a boy, I was taught to hunt, fish and gather food. An afternoon spent in the countryside always meant coming home with something to cook. Frogs, snails, pikes and wild mushrooms were my favourites and still nowadays I occasionally put them on the table. Luccio alla mantovana means Pike (luccio) cooked in the Mantova way; Mantova being a beautiful town south east of Lombardy. There are similar recipes from the nearby region Veneto, especially from the province of Verona, where other ingredients are added, like capers and cinnamon for example, but I like the recipe in the Mantova style; it is simpler and the delicate taste of the pike meat is not overwhelmed by too many different flavours. The use of anchovies, to prepare the “salsa” (sauce), shows a Venetian influence (Mantova was part of the republic of Venice in the past); where anchovies were often added to enhance food flavour, especially when consuming freshwater fish.
Ingredients for the court bouillon (Metric & Imperial measurements):
Nutrition facts: Calories 650 per serving.
Ingredients for the court bouillon (U.S. measurements):
Ingrediens for the "salsa" (Metric & Imperial measurements):
Ingrediens for the "salsa" (U.S. measurements):
I have used a 2.3 Kg (5 pounds 1 ounce) pike, but you can use a smaller one, however no less than 1 Kg (2 pounds 3 ounces).
Scale the pike. It is much easier to scale the pike before cutting its belly. It will be a bit messy, but it is a necessary step.
This is the pike gutted and completely cleaned of its scales.
The inside should be thoroughly clean.
Now, we prepare the court bouillon. Roughly chop the onion, celery and carrot and gather everything together with peppercorns, bay leaves and the parsley stalks.
Take a long pan, one that later can accommodate the fish, fill it with the cold water and add all the ingredients for the court bouillon to the pan.
Add the wine.
Add the salt and then apply low heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Gently simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, if the fish is to big for the pan, cut its tail and head.
The fish is ready to be immersed in the court bouillon.
After the court bouillon has gently simmered for 30 minutes, add the fish to the pan. Bring the liquid back to simmer and then adjust the cooker flame so that the water is just trembling.
Cover with a lid and let it poach for about 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes, put the cooker off and squeeze a lemon all over the fish and liquid.
Now, leave the fish to cool down for 10 minutes inside its own liquid.
Meanwhile, take the parsley leaves and the garlic.
Chop them, very finely.
Take a shallow frying pan. Add the olive and sunflower oils to the pan and heat the oils over medium/low heat.
Add the anchovy paste to the pan.
Stir, to help the anchovy paste to dissolve into the oil. At this stage the oil should not be too hot because we do not want to burn or fry the anchovy paste; we just need to dissolve it. It should really take less than one minute to do this.
Then, add the vinegar to the pan.
Quicky stir and temporary raise the heat to high, only for about 30-40 seconds. This will help to reduce the pungent flavour note of the vinegar.
Now, remove the pan from the heat, stir for few seconds and leave the oil to cool down for a minute.
Add the parsley and garlic mix to the pan.
Stir and adjust the seasoning with ground black pepper and a little pinch of salt. Set aside until ready to be used.
Remove the fish from the liquid.
The top skin can be easily removed by gently scraping with a knife.
Now, take a large glass tray and flake the fish. The bigger the fish the easier it is to remove the bones while you are separating the meat into many flakes. Be sure you do a good job when removing the bones.
After you have finished flaking the fish meat, spread the “salsa” all over the meat.
Cover with cling film and put in the fridge for at least 4-5 hours before the serving. 20 minutes before the serving, remove the fish from the fridge so that by the time you plate it, it is not too chilled.
During this long waiting time, you can prepare polenta (check the “polenta” recipe in the specials section of the website). Take a big large pan, fill it with the required amount of water and add some salt to the pan.
Add the polenta flour.
keep stirring; you need to stir for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes the polenta is ready.
I usually make lot of polenta, so that I can fill many different moulds. Most of the moulds will go in the freezer, for future consumption. For this specific recipe I have just used the wider and shallow tray in the top right. After a couple of hour in the fridge, the polenta will be compact, so overturn the tray and cut the polenta base into slices.
Grill the polenta slices.
Plate the fish cold, accompanied by hot grilled polenta.
A good, chilled dry white wine from the Lake Garda area will be perfect for this dish.
Federico Pezzaioli is an ex-badass Italian Paratrooper on a mission - to make creating delicious authentic Italian food really easy. He researches, writes and photographs each recipe with the same attention to detail he used to apply to packing his parachute.
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