Merluza en Salsa Verde. Hake in Green Sauce.
Hake, Olive Oil, Garlic, Parsley, Pepper, Salt, White wine. With boiled eggs and asparagus to serve.
That’s it. That is how simple this dish is. And its simplicity revolutionised food in its home region of Basque. With the Franco dictatorship coming to an end French cuisine remained the ultimate benchmark for refined modern cooking (Anderson; Unity and Diversity La Olla Podrida). One Basque chef went against the over indulgent, time consuming methods of haute cuisine and created this simple and delicious dish. This at a time when regional identity was frail, the dish came to represent the strength and sincerity of not just Basque but Spanish cuisine.
It can be prepared in a number of different ways, the most common is to add almejas (clams) and sometimes peas. However, no matter the additions the integrity of the dish remains in the method. The fish is seasoned before being gently added to an oil coated pan and lightly cooked in salsa verde. Such a simple method that creates such a memorable dish.
The Basque Region of Spain prides itself on fresh seafood, especially line caught hake which is heralded as being the best of its kind with a stronger texture and nicer skin than hake from other areas. When preparing this meal beyond the borders of Basque country it is difficult to get your hands on this quality hake. As a result, in places like France and Australia hake is usually substituted with cod or monkfish.
The simplicity of the dish is what makes it so wonderfully Basque but it is also what causes it to be difficult to place as distinctly Spanish. The presentation in terracotta makes the distinction easier but in countries like France and Australia the dish is usually plated for individual consumption, loosing some of its Spanish heritage.
All in all the dish is simply delicious.