Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Shad charmoulayit

Charmoula is a North African seasoning paste used for fish.  The version that I use most often is by Paula Wolfert and contains garlic, cilantro, parsely, paprika, cumin, olive oil and salt.  Typically, the fish is coated with the charmoula and  is cooked slowly  in a tagine, a kind of casserole, for a long time with vegetables and, if you are lucky, preserved lemons.  It is one of the world's great dishes, but it does take time.

This recipe is my own quick take on fish with charmoula.  I doubt that this is an authentic recipe. I also doubt that the word charmoulayit means anything in any language though it is my attempt at creating a Hebraicized  Arabic adjective.  Rather than cooking it long and slow I have used most of the charmoula seasonings in a very fast saute.  Shad is in season, ever so briefly, so I enjoy it while I can.  It is very rich but otherwise relatively mild, and though my wife claimed not to care for shad,  the spices cut through some of the richness quite nicely and she liked this.  (It is also cheap, only $9.99 per pound at Citarella's.)  I have also used  butter rather than olive oil and added capers and preserved lemon peel.   I left out the garlic since it can burn when cooked quicky on high heat, but you could add a clove or two.  Prep takes about five minutes, cooking another five. What could be bad?

This recipe serves two and you could double or triple it, but some things like shad are too good to share.

Shad charmoulayit
  • 12 ounces to 1 pound boned filet of shad
  • 1/2 teaspoon each sea salt, ground cumin, paprika and Aleppo pepper
  • Peel of 1/2 preserved lemon, pulp removed and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed.
  • Small handful chopped fresh coriander, well rinsed and chopped
  1. Cut the filet  in half crosswise to make it easier to turn.  Pick out any bones that remain if you can.  (If you can't, don't worry about it, they will come out much more easily onces the fish is cooked.)
  2. Rub both sides of the fish with the salt and spice mixture and set aside while you do the rest of the prep. 
  3. Spray a medium nonstick skillet with vegetable oil spray if you want, and the heat it on medium.  Add the butter and let it melt.  (If you want garlic, I would add two crushed cloved here and let them cook in the butter on low heat for a minute or two to season it, then remove.)
  4. Heat the skillet on high, and add the preserved lemon peel.  Cook for about a minute and add the fish, flesh side down.  Cook for two minutes.
  5. Flip the fish and add the capers and cilantro.  Cook for three minutes skin side down.
  6. If you don't trust me that the fish is done, test it with a fork or knife.  Transfer to plates with the juices and serve.  This goes very nicely with roasted fingerling potatoes, a crusty baguette, or toasted Turkish pide bread. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or a Sancerre are good wines to serve with this.

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