Did you know that an International Festival of Brodetto and Fish Soup existed and has even been going for ten years? More importantly, before we even get to that, do you know what a brodetto is? Let’s do this in an orderly fashion. Fish brodetto is an historic dish in Adriatic cuisine, in particular in Veneto, Le Marche and Abruzzo. Its origins date back to far off era defined by poverty and ingenious solutions. The fisherman of this era would set aside the best fish of the day to be sold, saving those of lesser quality or smaller size for the preparation of a poor man’s soup to eat with one’s family—so poor, in fact, that sometimes, when the fish available didn’t suffice, it would even contain small pieces of rock with seaweed and mussels attached. That was brodetto.
Brodetto is a dish so emblematic of Adriatic cuisine that, over the years, it has generated its own regional and inter-regional schools of thought. In Le Marche alone at least four types exist: alla fanese, all’anconetana, di Porto Recanati and di San Benedetto. The absolute ownership of the recipe is disputed—no wonder—amongst our region and Romagna. They come to blows over the essential ingredients, the number of fish used, the quantity of garlic or onion, the use of bread or polenta (grilled or not), and other subtleties that make the difference, although the idea for the base of the dish remains the same everywhere. The principal feature of the brodetto is the use of many types of fish; at least ten and often different ones according to the season: John Dory, clams, crabs, cod, red scorpionfish, mullet, shrimp, mussels, dogfish and even weevers, or those nice little fish that live directly below the top layer of sand and from which a few of you will have had the misfortune of experiencing a shot of venom to the sole of the foot.
Thinking back to the Art & Tourism fair held in Florence last May, I’m reminded that the Le Marche, paradiso possibile stand’s two co-exhibitors, the city of Ancona and the province of Pesaro–Urbino, were promoting the two regions that gave rise to perhaps the most famous two brodettos in the region: brodetto alla fanese and brodetto all’anconetana. And the brodetto, in fact the brodettos (let me take a risk here) seem to me to be a good metaphor for the situation that created itself at the fair: two entities with different characteristics but founded on common roots, just like the respective typical dishes. Two co-exhibitors, one region; two variations of a single, exquisite dish, but all in all, a great shared success.
The brodetto, as I was saying, is so symbolic for the people of Le Marche that every year in Fano they hold the International Brodetto and Fish Soup Festival, the climax of which is marked by the selection of the best regional brodetto. Let’s now look at the recipes for the brodetto alla fanese and all’anconetano.
Brodetto alla fanese, serves four people:
A kilo of seasonal fish, with the essential presence of tub gurnard instead of John Dory; maybe a few clams; one chopped clove of garlic and/or a chopped onion (the garlic/onion debate is ongoing); parsley (that goes without saying); a tablespoon or two of tomato puree (the use of tomato puree is considered a typical Fanese variation); half (or one, or a third of) a glass of white wine vinegar; a couple of glasses of water (or one of water and one of white wine); salt, pepper and oil.
How to make it:
Wash and fillet the fish. Shell the shellfish. In a large saucepan, perhaps a terrine, sauté the chopped garlic/onion with oil. Add the vinegar and reduce, and then add the parsley. At this point you can add the tomato, salt and pepper, a bit of water, and then leave it to cook for fifteen minutes. Then start to add the fish, beginning with the largest and taking into account that each fish has a different cooking time. We want to have all the fish cooked but still firm when it gets to the plate. Finish cooking the fish, serve with polenta instead bread, perhaps grilled, and finally tuck in.
Brodetto all’anconetana (whose conception is considered the oldest and has remained unchanged over the centuries), serves four people:
A kilo of seasonal fish, with the essential presence of John Dory instead of tub gurnard; two chopped cloves of garlic and an onion; parsley; 200g of passata, half a glass of white wine vinegar; salt, pepper and oil.
How to make it:
Wash and fillet the fish. Shell the shellfish. In a large saucepan, perhaps a terrine, sauté the chopped garlic/onion with oil (about five tablespoons). Add the vinegar and reduce, and then add the parsley. At this point you can add the tomato, salt and pepper, a bit of water, and then leave it to cook for fifteen minutes. Then begin to add the fish, starting with the cuttlefish, then the octopus, the shrimp, the scampi and then the more tender fish like cod and sole. Let it simmer for another fifteen minutes, and then torture yourself by letting it rest for about ten minutes. Place lightly toasted pieces of bread (at which even some people in Ancona laugh) into the bottom of four bowls, ladle in the brodetto until it covers them and…tuck in!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve now worked up quite an appetite, which is why I won’t be writing a nice conclusion like I normally would, but instead I’ll finish briskly and dash out to buy the ingredients. You should do the same!
The Paradise Trotter
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The second picture is taken from http://cibario.wordpress.com