30 December 2012

Fish in "Crazy Water" will Bring You Luck in The New Year

Pesce all'acqua pazza
On New Years Eve do you attempt to down 12 grapes one by one as the clock strikes each second on the countdown to midnight as they do in Portugal, Spain and Mexico? Do you eat doughnuts or other ring shaped foods like bagels for breakfast to signify the year coming to a full circle? Do you smash a pomegranate by the front door as they do in Greece where the more seeds you discover the more prosperous the new year? Maybe I could throw all my old pots, pans, clothing, appliances and furniture out the window as they used to in Southern Italy. It was meant to symbolize "letting go" of past unhappiness to prepare yourself for the future. Most Italians have abandoned the tradition, but I would still watch your head if you are walking the streets of Naples on New Years Eve, although maybe I would just wear red underwear instead that can be purchased in many shops this time of year.

Cornicello (Horn) Symbol of Good Luck in Italy

January 1st offers an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start. Although I must say 2012 was a pretty good year. But instead of leaving everything up to fate, why not enjoy a meal to increase your good fortune. Life can be a roller coaster so I see nothing wrong with boosting your luck with a few harmless superstitions, and when it involves food I will jump on the gravy train!  The holidays are steeped in tradition and New Years is no exception. Certain foods are eaten on certain days and there's a satisfying joy that comes in preparing those special dishes every year. Year after year we experience new foods and taste sensations so our old favourite choices might witness an overhaul, a month in Italy will do that to you.

Which brings us to the dish featured here today which is the Amalfi Coast's signature dish Pesce all' Acqua Pazza. Fish is not only healthy but the best good luck omen. Fish are a lucky choice. They have scales that resemble coins and they travel in schools which both represent prosperity. They also swim forward which symbolizes progress. In this day and age we need all the luck we can get! If you agree, eat fish on New years day as your primo for an Italian inspired meal.


The people of the Amalfi Coast and its neighbouring islands have always relied upon the daily catch. Buying fish fresh from the harbour is still a part of daily life, or from the pescatoria which sells only seafood caught that day. Traditional recipes make the most of the readily available sardines, mackerel, and anchovies as well as larger fish which are unfortunately becoming increasingly less available in these waters. The food of an area is always a wonderful insight into how people live and dining along the Amalfi coast is an experience in itself. 


Acqua pazza is Italian for “crazy water,” and this aromatic fish broth flavoured with white wine, garlic, and tomatoes is crazy delicious. Cooking fish in "crazy water" is a great way to ensure you end up with a moist, tasty dish. Serve your fish in shallow bowls with plenty of crazy broth. Garnish with parsley and pass plenty of crusty bread for dipping, dunking and mopping. The unique flavour of this dish lies in the combination of salted water and the terrific Pomodorini al Piennolo, a variety of local heart-shaped cherry tomatoes which are harvested in clusters and hung on beams and trellises to ripen.

The dish originated from fishermen in the Neapolitan area, who would sauté their catch in seawater together with tomatoes and extra virgin olive oilIn Italy you would ideally find fish like Pezzogna (red sea bream), or Branzino (European Sea Bass), but, here in my neck of Canadian woods the closest thing available might be red snapper, but it is not native here. So I opted for a chunk of halibut.


Marcella Hazan says, "Water is what brings together all the ingredients in this dish. The tomatoes, garlic, parsley, chile, olive oil and salt all simmer for a full 45 minutes, exchanging and compounding their flavours, producing a substance that is denser than a broth, and yet looser, more vivacious and fresher tasting than any sauce." Once you have married all the flavours you throw the fish into the mix.

For sale at the pescatoria

So there it is. Pesce All’Aqua Pazza. My version is based on a recipe by New Yorks Scotto family and is quicker and easy to prepare on any weekday. It’s crazy delicious! Serve with a nice chilled Pino Grigio or your favorite Sauvignon Blanc. May the fishes bring good wishes. Felice anno nuovo!! I hope that 2013 is rich in experiences, filled with love and happiness and of course great food I see every day on your blogs. Have a safe and happy New Year.  Keep smiling it is contagious.

**Pesce all'acqua pazza**

2 lbs halibut fillets, skin removed
1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chopped Calabrese chilies (or red pepper flakes)
1 bulb spring onions (or shallot)
1/4 cup high quality virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup high quality dry white wine
1/4 cup prepared tomato sauce
1/2 pint grape tomatoes or mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
4 parsley sprigs, whole and washed
1 sprig marjoram
Ciabatta bread for mopping, toasted and rubbed with garlic

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large stainless steel sauté pan with fitted lid, heat ¼ cup olive oil until smoking. Add fennel, garlic, chilies and onions; briefly sauté for 1 minute. Meanwhile, measure the thickness of the halibut fillets. They will cook for 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness. To the pan add the fish fillets. Add white wine, tomato sauce, grape tomatoes, parsley and marjoram and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover with lid and place entire pan in preheated oven for approximately 10 minutes. To check fish for doneness, remove pan from oven and remove lid. To test the fish for doneness, make a small slit with a paring knife in the thickest part of the fillet: all but the very center of each piece should be opaque. Place fish fillets individually in shallow bowls. Spoon cooking juices and vegetables over fish fillets. Serve with bread for mopping up juices.
You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. Happy New Year, Val! Wishing you fishing hope, peace, and prosperity this coming year and always. : )

  2. We don't have any of those fun cultural New Year's traditions. Perhaps I should start one!

  3. Even if this didn't sound absolutely delicious, I would have to eat this simply because the name is so fantastic. :-) Happy New Year, dear Val!!

  4. what nice post Val; happy New year dear!:)

  5. I will happy crush pomegranates outside my door (so long as I can monopolize on the five second rule and eat the arils!). Love this good luck fish dish!! Happy new year chica!

  6. After all the Christmas sweets, it's nice to see some good clean healthy eats. Wine and garlic makes anything taste good. Looks divine, and it's fun to recap your dream trip. Happy New Year, Val!

  7. A wonderful dish a¨nd lovely holiday pictures!

    Best wishes for the New Year!



  8. What a great post Valerie, I so enjoyed as well as learning about all these customs as well as those great pictures.This sounds like a healthy and happy fish meal.
    Wishing you a happy and healthy 2013.

  9. What a tasty and healthy sounding fish dish! A great way to start the new year! Have a Happy New Year!

  10. Oh Val I love this post! I love traditions, and you just reminded me how my mom always used to tell me we had to throw something out every year, I remember throwing out an old cup one year with her. Didn't realize it was an actual southern Italian thing :)
    Your pictures are stunning. The boats laying are my favorite. I followed your amazing trip on FB and was so happy for your experience! Have the happiest of New Years! Best wishes in 2013!

  11. First of all, I would eat a bowl of this soup, luck or no luck. It looks scrumptious Val.

    Thanks for all of the pretty Italian scenes throughout your post. Wishing you and your family a happy & healthy new year.

  12. And I honestly can't believe I forgot to mention how much I love this fish dish - I have never cooked fish in this method! It sounds wonderful.

  13. Even if it doesn't bring luck, your recipe certainly is a healthy and delicious way to start the New Year.

  14. I have been wanting to do Fish in Crazy Water for eons and this is just the delicious push I needed. The photos of Italy warmed me thoroughly on a very chilly morning. Happy 2013. May it bring goodness.

  15. Great post Val! The fish looks so delicious - halibut is my favourite. Wishing you a lucky, and happy New Year!

  16. A pity I don't like fish. I guess that means my year will be unlucky. Well, I can at least make this for my husband who will love it. He can have the luck for both of us.

    My family never really had any New Year traditions. We usually had ham and cabbage for dinner because the cabbage represented money, but once I was a teen, my family stopped doing family dinners on New Year's Day. It's funny. My maternal grandmother was Italian, but the Italian Cooking Gene skipped over her. My Irish grandfather did the cooking in their home. I guess that's why we missed so many Italian food traditions (except for my much-loathed Christmas Eve fish dinner).

  17. Lovely post, Val. Wishing you all the best in the New Year!

  18. What a fun and fantastic post, Val. I love learning about some of the New Year's traditions around the world -- though I am not tempted to throw out all of my kitchen equipment! Wishing you a healthy and adventure-filled 2013, with thanks for all of the great recipes you share here throughout the year.

  19. Such fun to read about all the traditions, Val! The only one we have.....a glass of champagne! :)

    Loved seeing the fennel with your fish dish. Love that flavor and this is a marvelous recipe.

    Here's hoping 2013 will be another amazing adventure in life, cooking and making new friends. It's been such a pleasure getting to know you!

    Happy New Year, Val!

  20. Love your post, Val. I had a mental picture of pots and pans flying out of the windows in Naples and it made me chuckle. We have a much more subdued New Year's Eve at my house. I hope that 2013 will be a healthy and happy new year for us all. Thanks for travel posts that I am enjoying so very much.

  21. How can one ever go wrong with halibut? And everything else in this lovely Italian recipe. YUM! Healthy and Happy! Your photos are GORGEOUS! Did you love Capri? I would imagine the Amalfi Coast was much more rewarding.
    Happy 2013 Valerie - and all the best in good food, good fun, travels and happiness!

  22. Happy New Year to you, too, Val. I love fish and the pics of Amalfi Coast brought back fond memories of my own trip a few years back.

  23. Happy New Year Val! Hope 2013 brings you even more wonderful adventures! : )

  24. I love cioppino so I'm sure I would love this crazy water fish, Val! It looks so light, delicious and perfect for a light meal after the feasts of the past month or so.

    I really like the idea of throwing something out the window in theory - a purge of sorts :)

  25. Great looking dish happy new year to you much love and happiness with good health in 2013 to you.

  26. How very delicious...great fotos and I am sorry to be so late, but took time off to be with family and friends.

    I might be going to Argentina for a month...will let you know...


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