When I first started working with Fulton Fish Market, this was the top request for recipes to be developed. Meaning "crazy water" acqua pazza is a traditional Neapolitan dish usually made with white fish, but since salmon is one of the top sellers over at FFM, we wanted to adapt the recipe.
Fortunately, the dish's defining characteristics work phenomenally with any seafood, really: acqua pazza needs to have salt, water, extra virgin olive oil, and tomatoes. The dish originates in Naples, when fishermen would cook their catch in seawater with tomatoes and olive oil, but the term acqua pazza actually comes from a Tuscan peasant technique to make wine go as far as possible. In the late Middle Ages, Tuscan farmers were obliged to be a part of a sharecropping system called mezzadria and were forced to give most of what they produced to their landowners. In order to stretch their own supply of wine, they would essentially ferment the small amount of wine they had left with the waste products of the wine-making process (pomace, seeds, etc) and a whole lot of water. This blush colored water was known as acqua pazza. The key ingredients in the seafood dish (namely the tomatoes and the water) created a broth that was so similar in color to the watered-down wine, that the term became synonymous with both.
While this dish has a lot of history, it takes very little effort, and the preparation works phenomenally with salmon. I used a bold flavored king salmon, but try this with any fish...and let me know how it turns out!
SALMON ACQUA PAZZA
2 each 8 oz portions king salmon fillets
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 each garlic cloves
1 each shallot
2 Tbs parsley
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tbs capers
¾ cup dry white wine
1 cup water
Place salmon fillets skin side down on a plate, and season with salt. Let the salmon sit while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, and slice the garlic and shallot thinly. Finely chop the parsley and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low. Add the shallot and garlic, and sweat until just becoming translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in tomatoes, and continue to sauté for a few more minutes, until tomatoes start to break down slightly.
Add in the crushed red pepper and capers, and sauté a couple minutes, until capers are fragrant. Pour in the white wine and bring to a simmer, then add in the parsley and water and bring to a simmer again. Let the sauce simmer slowly for about 10 minutes, not to reduce the liquid, but to infuse all flavors.
Gently place the salmon in the liquid skin side down, and spoon some of the sautéed veggies over the top. Cover with a lid, and allow the fish to cook over very low heat, about 15-20 minutes, depending on desired doneness.
When the salmon is finished, place each fillet in its own shallow bowl, then spoon the veggies over and then use a ladle to divide the crazy water between the dishes. Serve with crusty bread.