Fisherman’s fried fish

Fisherman’s fried fish

Frittura di paranza

By
From
Acquacotta
Serves
4
Photographer
Emiko Davies; Lauren Bamford

If I had to bottle the sound of summer in Monte Argentario, it would be the song of cicadas whirring in the trees, the eerie echoing call of the enormous seagulls circling over the port, and the crunch of pine needles underfoot, fallen from the thick huddle of umbrella pines along the beach. If it was a scent, it would be the perfume of just-cut watermelon, combined with the waft of fritto, as you walk past someone’s kitchen, their windows wide open in an attempt to make the smell of deep frying fish escape.

This isn’t a dish that belongs strictly to this one place. You will find it anywhere along Italy’s long coast. It’s a dish synonymous with summer, when restaurants open along the beaches and offer one form or another of frittura di paranza (which is named after traditional coastal fishing boats and their nets of the same name).

The small fish used for frying can be spotted at the markets or at fishmongers labelled pesce per fritto (fish for frying) and seem to be simply the small, miniature versions of larger fish – no larger than the width of your palm – that might be thrown back into the water in most other places. I suggest using naturally smaller sized whole fish, such as anchovies and sardines, mixed with some fillets of larger fish such as cod, red mullet and mackerel. You can also add small, whole prawns (shrimp). When deep-fried, they become so beautifully crisp and crunchy on the outside, you can eat the whole thing – shell, head and all.

You can also use rice flour for this, instead of regular flour. Although it’s not traditional, it gives the fish a light-as-air coating.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
300g small raw prawns, such as school prawns
500g small fish, such as whitebait, anchovies, sardines (or fillets of larger fish)
60g plain flour, for dusting
vegetable oil, for frying
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Method

  1. Prawns can remain whole, shell and all, if using small ones. If they are very large, you may want to remove the shell but keep the head and tail on. Likewise, small fish can be kept whole, but clean their interiors as these will taste bitter – cut a small slit from their throat along their belly and pull out what’s there. Rinse and pat dry. Larger fish fillets can be cut into 4–5 cm pieces for easy eating.
  2. Put the flour in a bowl or on a plate, and dredge the prawns and fish to coat lightly but evenly in the flour – shake off any excess.
  3. Heat a medium saucepan or deep frying pan with enough oil to allow the seafood to float – about 4 cm deep at least. When the oil reaches about 170°C, it’s ready for the seafood. You can test the temperature by dipping the end of a wooden spoon in the oil – when it’s surrounded immediately by many tiny bubbles, it’s ready. Begin frying in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan or you will lower the temperature of the oil too much.
  4. Fry the prawns for 1 minute and remove; drain on plenty of pieces of paper towel. Fry the fish for about 2 minutes for the fillet pieces, and 3 minutes for the whole small fish. Drain on paper towel.
  5. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Tags:
Italian
Tuscany
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