Authentic Dalmatian Fish Stew / Lešo with Potato, Garlic and Parsley
Soup as Medicine
Fish has been called "brain food". No one can prove that it makes you smarter, but there is something about fish broth. Omega 3 vitamins come from fish oil, which help the symptoms in women who are facing discomfort with hormones and other physical changes.
In the Dalmatian area, or any other place that is next to the sea, fresh fish may be cooked in a delicious broth to be eaten as is or used as a base for rice soup. It can be an appetizer before a fish dinner that is barbecued or cooked then broiled in the oven.
Non-seasonal and nourishing, it's a great warmer upper during the colder months. Broths keep the system flushed with liquids when it feels less natural to drink large amounts of water. As you know, water keeps the lymph modes functioning better, removing toxins and waste from the body. More water also helps promote weight loss or weight maintenance, since the stomach is already full with liquids, making it less likely to overdo it in the eating department. This dish is also great in the summertime, when appetites are reduced by the oppressive heat. A nice tasty fish soup can give you energy, tickle your taste buds and fill up your stomach without getting that dragged out feeling that is so prevalent after a heavy, hard to digest lunch.
Tips on How to Make It
Garnished with parsley and garlic, fish lešo (pronounced Lessho) is made of white fish. Cooked on the stove, you'll need a short, medium shallow pot (preferably ceramic).
For those who don't feel up to buying fresh fish and cleaning the scales, guts and so on, fresh-frozen fish is a viable alternative. Everything is ready to go. It may be slightly less flavorful, but it's still a great back up source.
Fresh parsley is a must, however. That dried stuff won't add anything to the dish.
Basics on Cleaning the Fish (it's easy)
A dirty fish won't taste good, so take your time and do it right
In cleaning the fish, do it in layers. First, old newspaper, then an older cutting board and finally your friend the fish. Placing his head to the left (I'm right handed), using a decent knife, clean the fish scales off its body by scraping the body against the grain, from right to left. Yes they will fly in the air. Next you will have to open it up! Don't be shy, the fish must be clean. Starting from the "belly button" (as I call it) cut upwards and remove the innards. The cleaner, the tastier, so take a few minutes to do it right. Use the knife blade to scrape out anything that looks inedible. At the end you will have just a backbone and fish fillets.
Make sure you clean the blood thoroughly. After removing its inner organs, absorb any remaining blood with a good absorbent paper towel. DON'T rinse the fish under the faucet, the fish meat will be destroyed and lose flavor.
When the cleaning is done, put the newspaper covered with fish guts into a plastic bag and leave it half opened near the trash can for the cats to devour. (After awhile they will hear your footsteps whenever you leave the house!)
Garlic and Parsley Preparation
1. garlic - you will need about four healthy looking cloves for this dish. Remove the hard, paper-like exterior and chop them up into reasonable sized chunks.
2. Clean well, then shake out any excess water of the fresh parsley. Fold it in half - stems versus leaves.
3. Place the coarsely sliced garlic on the cutting board, with the parsley on top, folded in half lengthwise. Now chop as finely as possible. Pass over the entire production at least once or twice to get the tiniest possible garlic pieces -
4. Rocking a big knife back and forth is another way to mince these babies to perfection. The tinier they are the more flavor comes out, and everyone knows that flavor is king.
The Recipe for Fish Leso
Ready, Steady ... COOK!
2 lbs of fish, 3 potatoes, 4 cloves of garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, good quality olive oil.
Depending on the size of the fish, you can cook whole or cut in half or even in thirds if it's a very large fish. Place in a ceramic bowl or plate, salt lightly, and cover. Leave it at room temperature, don't refrigerate. Cold fish into the hot pan is a shock to be avoided.
Preparing the pot:
This recipe is easier than its first cousin, Brudet, because you simply fill up the pot all at once and then let it start cooking.
Let the layering begin!
First layer: cleaned, peeled and sliced potatoes (preferably a yellowish cast - they are the best tasting)
Second layer: Cleaned and cut fish, preferably in thirds if it's a medium-large fish. A smaller fish can be cooked whole.
Third layer: half of the parsley and garlic mixture. The remainder will be added at the very end.
Now, fill the pot with water to cover the contents of the pot. Add a pinch of salt, two turns of ground pepper, and two or three rounds of olive oil.
Cook on medium (out of respect for the fish). If it cooks too vigorously the fish may inadvertently fall apart in the pot.
In another pot, cook rice.
When the fish is done, serve rice on the plate and spoon the broth over the rice.
This meal is absolutely delicious, feel free to have two plates - it is light and flavorful! Serve with french bread and simply enjoy. In most cases, Lessho is best served with a good white wine since it's lighter fare and less heartier fish type than Brudet.
Brudet is made with "harder" fish - harder to digest but more caloric - like sardines for example. Think chicken white meat versus dark meat. The Blue fish is like the dark meat of the turkey or chicken.
Lesso is made of finer, white fish. Basically, white fish swims individually between the rocks and has more minerals. Blue fish swims in fish schools.
Bon Appetit and tell me how you liked it!