The Hubs was thrilled with this recipe because it has clams, and we rarely cook anything with clams because I don’t eat them. It’s a consistency thing with me. I enjoy their broth, and when they’re cut up and chopped into things, but not whole clams.
The Spanish dish—Merluza en Salsa Verde con Almejas, or hake in green sauce with clams—is a classic dish from the Basque Country in northern Spain. Hake has been one of my favorite white flaky fishes ever since I enjoyed it for the very first time in Northern Spain in 2013. Problem is, it’s near impossible to source in these parts, so cod is a reasonable substitute.
In this recipe, fish fillets are gently simmered until flaky in a parsley, garlic and olive oil sauce, then are finished with cooked clams in their shells. Milk Street adapted this formula from seaside restaurant Txoko Getaria, and devised a method that requires only a food processor and a skillet but yields delicious results in only about an hour.
The cubanelle pepper (or jalapeño chili) is a stand-in for hard-to-source Basque guindilla chilies. And if you cannot find Idiazabal cheese, a Basque sheep’s-milk cheese with a subtle smokiness, Manchego is a good substitute.
Don’t omit the cheese. The pairing of fish and cheese is indeed unusual but the Idiazábal lends complex flavor without tasting distinctly cheesy. After adding the fish to the skillet, don’t allow the poaching liquid to reach a full simmer; slow, gentle bubbling is best to ensure the fillets are perfectly cooked.
Basque-Style Fish and Clams in Parsley-Garlic Sauce
- 1 oz. Idiazábal or Manchego cheese (without rind), cut into rough 1″ chunks
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- Kosher salt
- 5 cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
- ½ cup plus ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 6-oz. firm white fish fillets (about 1” thick), such as hake, cod or grouper
- 5 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 Cubanelle pepper or jalapeño chili, stemmed, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced into thin half rings
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 lbs. hardshell clams (about 1½” in diameter), such as manila or littleneck
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- In a food processor, combine the cheese, almonds and ½ teaspoon salt. Process until finely chopped, about 20 seconds. Add the parsley and process until chopped, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ½ cup oil, then process until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed; set aside.
- Season the fish all over with salt. In a 12-inch skillet over medium, combine the remaining ¼ cup oil, the garlic and Cubanelle pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic begins to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook, stirring, until the wine reduces by half, about 4 minutes.
- Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and cook, occasionally shaking the skillet, until the clams have opened, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a bowl, discarding any that have not opened; cover to keep warm.
- In a small bowl, whisk the flour and ½ cup of the broth mixture until smooth, then whisk the mixture into the broth in the skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium, stirring often; the liquid will thicken. Add the fish skin/skinned side up, then cover, reduce to low and cook for 4 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a very gentle simmer.
- Using a wide metal spatula, carefully flip the fillets. Re-cover and cook until the centers of the fillets are opaque and reach 120°F, another 2 to 4 minutes. Using the spatula, transfer the fillets to serving bowls.
- Return the sauce to a simmer over medium, then stir in the parsley puree and remove from the heat. Taste and season with salt. Pour the sauce over the fish and top with the clams.
Recipe from Courtney Hill for Milk Street