This dish comes from the northern Greek region of Goumenessa, in Central Macedonia, a gorgeous, mountainous areas punctuated by lakes and rushing rivers. Sweet water fish abound here, among them a species of carp called grivadi, which is a little like American catfish. You can make this dish with trout or with any firm fish. This recipe, based on a traditional regional dish, calls for adding a local touch at the end—a sprinkling of walnuts, which often appear in sauces as a thickener in northern Greek cuisine.
2 to 4 servings
1 large fish, about 1-1 ½ kilos (3 lbs.) (trout, catfish, or any firm fish will do)
1 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
6 large onions, 4 of then coarsely chopped and 2 of them finely chopped. Keep the coarsely-chopped onions separate from the finely-chopped ones.
1 Tbs. tomato paste or ½ kilo (1 lb.) fresh ripe tomatoes
1 Tbs. sugar
1 cup long-grain rice
½ cup rosé wine
4 Tbs. sultanina raisins
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. paprika
2 Tbs. ground walnuts
1.Wash, gut and scale the fish. Carefully remove the gills. Season the fish with salt and pepper and set aside, refrigerated, until ready to use.
2.Heat half the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet and cook the four coarsely chopped onions over low heat, covered, until soft, about 10 minutes. Dilute the tomato paste in three tablespoons water and add to the onions, together with the paprika. Stir. The onions will acquire a deep reddish color. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3.Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F.
4.Prepare the filling: Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy skillet and slowly cook the two finely chopped onions, covered, until they are lightly caramelized. Sprinkle with sugar and continue cooking until their color darkens to a light amber. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil. Add the wine. When it cooks off, add ½ cup water and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in the sultanina raisins.
5.Spread the tomato-onion mixture on the bottom of a large baking pan. Fill the cavity of the fish with the rice mixture. Using toothpicks or a needle and thread, secure the cavity closed. Place the stuffed fish on top.
6.Sprinkle the fish with the paprika. Cover and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the fish is fork tender. Five minutes before removing the fish from the oven, mix the walnuts with a little salt and sprinkle over and around the fish. Remove, cool slightly, and serve.
Alternatively, if the idea of serving a whole fish, bone in, that is also stuffed and therefore a bit of a nuisance to clean and serve, you may make the stuffing separately, and opt instead for 4 large fish fillets. To make the rice, follow the directions in step 4, but add the tomato paste, paprika and walnuts to the rice mixture and cook it all the way through until it is done. You will need to 1 1/2 cups of water instead of a mere half a cup. To prepare the fillets, simply salt and pepper them and dust them lightly in a little flour. Pan fry them in a combination of 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Serve the fillets over the rice, and garnish with a little paprika and some walnut pieces.
Consider a glass of wine with this delicious dish. My suggestion would be a glass of northern Greek rosé made with the local Xinomavro grape (you can find this stateside; Boutari and others produce it.) You might also consider a glass od red Xinomavro, which is dry and tannic, with this. The sweetness of the rice will offset it.