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How to Make Croatian Fish Brudet or Brodet
Buying the Fish - Which Choices are Best for Brudet?
Croatian Brudet is the same thing as French Bouillabaisse! The only difference is in the name. It's a tomato based soup/stew made with fresh fish, garlic, onions and green peppers for taste. A splash of wine, salt and pepper round it out. It's super simple, being the food that the fishermen would make for themselves after a catch. Chopped in bulky pieces, you eat it with a fork and sop up the fish broth with dry pieces of french bread followed with a throwback of wine mixed with water (bewanda). The fresher the fish, the better!
Good choices for Brudet are sardines (srdele), mackerel (lokarde) and beech (bukva) because they don't cost much and they release a lot of great flavor into the fish broth. They come from the blue fish family, which means they swim in a school. (Smart, huh?)
This delicious, nutritious fish stew can be made of the most expensive or least expensive fish in the market. The main thing is if the fish is fresh. To be sure, take a peek at its eyes (are they clear or are they clouded over?). What you want is a clear eye.
Croatian Brudet - cook it uncovered
A little about Fish!
Blue fish are those which swim in schools, like sardines, for example. They are like "blue collar" workers. True, blue fish are less "light" and contain more fish oil, but fish oil is very good for heart health and nevertheless delicious. A little vinegar offsets their "hardness" (they are also more filling).
White fish White fish swim alone like the lone ranger, and tend to swim in and out of rocky crevasses. They are considered to be of better quality and usually more expensive but not necessarily better at all. They may leave you feeling hungry in two hours. Something to keep in mind!
All about Fish
- 1 kilo or so of fish (1 kilo = 2.2 lbs) - fresh or frozen is fine - cleaned, scaled and cut in half if very large. We are aiming for large chunks of fish, bigger than bite size, about 2"x2"
- 2 - 4 onions, cut in crescent shaped wedges
- 2 - 4 fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes, cut in crescent shapes. Tomato paste can be substituted if necessary.
- a little tomato paste (2 T.) mixed in a small glass of water to add a little color
- 4 garlic cloves
Salt, pepper, a liter or so of water, white wine, vinegar, a teaspoon of white sugar, and up to 1/4 cup of vinegar if the fish has a strong taste (like sardine, for example).
Paprika to taste - about 2 T. - (powdered sweet red paprika). The hot stuff can be used or a half teaspoon of the really hot and spicy stuff - but as always, "less is better!" because it's always easier to add more later. Once it's in the pot there's no turning back!
Cleaning the Fish
Fish Cleaning 101
There's really nothing to it. With a little practice you will be a pro at it. All you need are a sharp knife, wooden cutting board or similar, and old newspapers to place underneath. A plastic bag to throw the "guts" into, and a nice porcelain dish to put your fish into.
- Lie the fish horizantally on a wooden cutting board with old newspaper underneath.
- With a sharp knife, go against the grain to remove the fish scales.
- Now cut him open from the belly button to the head, removing brown stuff. Use the knife to slide it from the cutting board on to the newspaper.
- Once you've cleaned each fish, put the newspaper into the plastic bag and give it to the cats. Use pieces of paper towels to soak up any extra blood.
You may very judiciously rinse your fish in as little water as possible, since fresh water will only take away the fish taste. Salt the fish lightly and let it sit on a plate while you prepare your other ingredients. Right before cooking, halve him crosswise to aid in cooking time. Cover and leave the fish at room temperature if you plan to cook immediately, otherwise feel free to store in the refrigerator. Fish is delicate and the shock from cold refrigerator to warm pot is to be avoided.
Helpful Hint: I usually start cleaning the fish around 10:30 then start chopping my veggies and prepare my pot. I usually start cooking around 11:15 am for a 12:00 lunch. The meal doesn't take long to prepare, but it needs to sit a little before serving to let the flavors mesh. I also like to make polenta with it (see my link) so it's a step by step process.
The onions must be soft and translucent, never brown or burnt, nor undercooked....
Home made Croutons for Soaking
- Practical Uses for Day-Old Bread
Day old bread can be reused in two or three useful and delicious recipes. Crispy biscotti which can be soaked in fish brudet is simply wonderful. All you need is cubed dry bread, place it in the oven and let it bake on low til crumbly and absorbent.
One Big, Important No-No
Do not ever cover the pot.
It will cause condensation into the brudet (raindrops) and the broth will lose its flavor.
Best to fry the oil on medium high, add the fish and wine concoction, shake, cook a little, add water, raise the heat a tad, then make sure the fish cooks gently and consistently. Respect the fish. It needs to cook at a nice steady pace - cooking it too fast seems to lose something.
* Always with an uncovered pot* ! (Amen!)
Eating the Fish Brudet - Side Dish Suggestions
And now for the hardest part.....Let's Eat!
Fish Brudet is ideally served with slightly day old bread or homemade croutons made from day old bread - cube it and put it in the oven at the lowest setting for an hour or so. It tends to soak up the broth better than fresh bread. Another option is corn polenta or rice. See my Polenta recipe in the hub link attached :)
Fancy Shmancy or Just Good Eatin'
As you see in some of the photos, they made this dish look like a culinary masterpiece. It can be dressed up, as you see above, or simply cooked to perfection for the simplest of lunches.
Some people here use the wonderful fish broth to add to a pot of beans - it is so delicious all by itself. The fish is nice to nibble, but watch for the bones. You will need a separate plate on the table to put them, if you like. Guess who will be eating the remains a little after lunch - yep - Miao!
Ideal for tossing in biskotti (toasted bread cubes) to help soak up the wonderful fish broth. Here is my link - I am baking some right now. If you like other Mediterranean dishes, try Artichokes with Peas. It's also a one pot meal. Bon Appetit, or as we say in Croatia,
Which fish do you wish?
My favorite type of fish is:
Golden Creamy Polenta
- How to Make Golden Corn Polenta for Lunch - A Croatian, Spanish, Italian, and Mediterranean Meal Sta
Corn can be cool and it is definitely in fashion. Plain old wheat bread - boring. Funky old fashioned polenta - WOW! Use it to warm up cold winter lunches. Best of all, it is full of fiber, nutritious and fat free!
And now for something entirely different...
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