Halibut in acqua pazza ai carciofi


How can you resist making something called "crazy water?"

I first had fish in acqua pazza during a trip to, where else, Italy — specifically, while we were on the Amalfi Coast. To be honest, I don’t remember whether it was in Sorrento, Positano or some other gorgeous town, but I do remember the dish rather distinctly. In that case, it was a whole, small fish swimming (or as the case may be, not) in a thin, briny, herbed broth tinged with red and dotted with pools of olive oil. In many ways, it embodies the delicious simplicity of southern Italian food, a dish cooked in its own deconstructed environment.

I had largely forgotten about it until recently; my friend Julie has been on a little acqua pazza bender of late. And so as I peered into my fridge, assessing the waning freshness of the previous week’s haul of produce from the farmer’s market, I decided to get all pazza on some halibut. But, of course, I had to take my liberties.

Not that there’s any one recipe. However, the standard equation appears to be simply a couple of herbs, some tomatoes, wine and/or stock (though traditionally the stock would have been seawater), a touch of chili pepper and fish. I modeled mine off a recipe from Cucina Italiana, which called for fennel. I didn’t have fennel, but I did have some wee artichokes that had to get used pronto. Hey, it’s all Italian, right?

All in all, a satisfying and simple dish, though I might have blanched the artichokes ahead to get them a little more tender. The broth was flavorful and complex, and the fish perfectly cooked — still supple and moist.

Oh, and those green logs? Favas, the first I’ve made this season. The nice lady at Knoll Farms suggested that they were still young and tender enough to be roasted and eaten whole, pods and all. Well … not so much. The pods were definitely too tough to eat. However, it certainly made for the least labor-intensive fava beans ever, and it was kind of fun to extract the creamy, roasted beans from their housings.

One year ago today … I made a lovely berry gratin.

Halibut in acqua pazza ai carciofi
Adapted from Cucina Italiana

1 10-12 oz. filet halibut
several sprigs parsley
several sprigs marjoram
3 small artichokes, trimmed and thinly sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, cracked
2-3 scallions, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 c. white wine
chicken stock as needed
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Season the fish with salt and pepper on all sides, and place in a roasting pan or large oven-safe skillet with the herbs, artichokes, garlic, scallions and a drizzle of olive oil. (Blanche the artichokes ahead if they seem particularly tough; mine were.) Roast for 10 minutes. Add the white wine and cherry tomatoes; give the pan a good shake to distribute the ingredients evenly. Return to the oven and cook another 15 minutes. Remove and rest, covered, a few minutes.

Serve half of the filet in a bowl; ladel over the broth with the tomatoes. Some crusty bread wouldn’t hurt, either. Serves two.

  • Just proves that simplicity is the best cook!

  • I want to eat this for dinner tonight. Looks like I need to go out in search of some fish and little artichokes.

  • What a beautiful picture! I recently saw a reference to grilled favas in the pods and wondered about that. I love favas so much, but never prepared them that way. The pod is rather thick, so I wondered if it would taste good.