During my first visit to my husband’s family in Greece back in 2005, my husband’s late grandfather would talk to me every chance he got about three things each and every time I saw him: his late wife (my husband’s Giagia Sofia), his grandson (my husband) and his favorite dish (Bourdetto). He would mention this dish repeatedly every time I would visit him in his apartment in Athens and then finally one warm October afternoon, I sat down to lunch with him to try his favorite dish. It was then that I’d had my first taste of Bourdetto and was quickly taken by its flavor and spicy (oh, the heat!) sauce.
Bourdetto (I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that Bourdetto is simply stewed fish) is a classic Corfiot dish. Traditionally made with scorpion fish, Bourdetto can also be prepared with any other firm, white-fleshed fish including cod or haddock.
Bourdetto can be found on pretty much every menu in a typical taverna across the island of Kerkyra. The ingredients are pretty basic and barely vary among cooks; some add a bit of tomato paste, while others a fresh tomato or two; some a little white wine and some not. One thing though is for sure … this dish is always spicy and that’s the way I like it!
Mπουρδέτο (με Σκορπιούς) — Bourdetto (Spicy Stewed Scorpion Fish)
2 whole scorpion fish, about 2 1/2 lbs., cleaned well
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
Salt, to taste
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes and paprika to the pot and stir well. Let the onions and garlic cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute longer. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes. Season with salt, then add the whole fish. Cover the pot and cook the fish for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the fish sit five minutes. Serve alongside boiled/steamed horta (wild greens), potatoes or rice. And, you’re probably tired of hearing this, but … don’t forget the BREAD!
**You can add some diced potatoes to the sauce from the start (just make sure you cut the potato small enough to cook rather quickly).