Sarde a Beccafico is a famous traditional dish from Sicily. The sardines are stuffed with breadcrumbs, raisins, pine nuts, and baked in the oven with orange juice. At Cala del Citro the chef made a dish with red mullet that reminded me of this; instead of pine nuts he used pistachios. The combination works very well, especially when served with a fennel salad. Here is my version of this very elegant and flavorful dish.
For the presentation ask your fishmonger to butterfly the mullets. This means filleting the mullets in such a way that the two fillets remain attached to each other. The tail is left on as well.
For 4 servings
4 red mullets of about 300 grams (.66 lb) each, butterflied (so you’ll end up with about 600 grams (1.3 lb) of fillet
40 grams (4 Tbsp) pistachios
20 grams (2 Tbsp) raisins, soaked in warm water and drained
30 grams (6 Tbsp) breadcrumbs from stale bread
500 ml (2 cups) homemade fish stock, preferably made using the heads and bones of the mullets
juice and grated zest of 1 orange
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
raw fennel, thinly sliced and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and salt
Roughly chop the pistachios, and toast them in the oven at 180C/350F until golden, about 8 minutes.
Remove any bones that are left in the mullets using tweezers, feeling with your fingertips to find them.
Remove the crusts from the stale bread and chop it roughly…
…then put it in the food processor…
…and process to obtain breadcrumbs.
Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, raisins, pistachios, and grated orange zest in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Juice the orange after grating the zest.
Stir to mix the contents of the bowl, then add a tablespoon of orange juice, and stir to mix again.
Add enough extra virgin olive oil…
…to make the filling creamy.
To make the sauce, bring the fish stock to a boil…
…add the remaining orange juice…
…and allow to simmer…
…until the sauce is thick. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. You may have to add a pinch of sugar if the orange wasn’t sweet enough.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 225C/440F. Brush the skin of the mullets with olive oil, and season with salt.
Arrange the mullets on a baking sheet with parchment paper, season them with salt, and put the filling on top.
Close the mullets and secure them with toothpicks.
Bake at 225C/440F until the skin is crispy and the mullets are just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve the stuffed mullets with a simpel fennel salad (dressed only with salt and good extra virgin olive oil) and a dollop of the sauce.
This works well with a full bodied Italian white, such as a Vermentino from Sardinia. There is a lot of flavor in the dish, so the wine should be flavorful as well.
Rabbit leg that is crispy on the outside but juicy and tender on the inside, with roasted pumpkin and lentils is a seasonal and tasty dish.