Fish Bilbaina Style

This recipe is a contribution from my late Uncle Phillip, von vivant, raconteur and ladies' man extraordinair. Phillip was the black sheep of our family, mainly because of his lust for life. You could describe him as a lovable rogue; and he was a fabulous cook. According to him, the origin of this recipe is Bilbao, Spain, in the Basque country. Whether they prepare it this way in Bilbao, I do not know. But Uncle Phillip always stated they did.

Like most of his generation, Uncle Phillip had this thing about Spain and its culture. To a lot of older folk on the island of Puerto Rico, Spain is still regarded as the "mother country." In fact, La Borinqueña," the unofficial island anthem, has a phrase in it about the "Spanish motherland." To us New York bred Puerto Ricans, or Nuyoricans, these sentiments are rather quaint. I have never been to Bilboa. Im sure I'd feel more at home in Lancaster, PA than in Bilboa any day. But I doubt I could find a genuine recipe for Bilbaina style fish in Lancaster, PA, or most parts of the U.S. for that matter.

Let me add that the recipe is from my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Perseus Books - Running Press). There are more like it in that tome. Enjoy.

 (Fish Bilbaina Style)

1 2-1/2 to 3 pound striped bass, cleaned and scale but with head and tail still attached (can substitute
   any other firm fleshed fish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
Salt and black ground pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 370 degrees F.
2. Wash fish, inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels.
3. With a sharp knife, make 3 to 4 vertical slits on both sides of fish.
4. Heat olive oil in a frying pan or skillet and lightly brown fish over moderate heat on both sides.
5. Remove fish to a baking dish large enough to hold it comfortably. Top fish with onions. Then layer with tomatoes, and finally with the green pepper strips.
6. Pour tomato sauce over the fish, and sprinkle with minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Bake uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
    Yield: 4 servings.

Caption: courtesy of ian brodie
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