Fish in Crazy Water

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Fish in Crazy Water

          Who could ever resist trying a recipe with such a great name (which is a translation of the Italian, pesce all’acqua pazza). What is truly crazy is how simple it is to make an intensely flavored, water-based poaching liquid for fish fillets.  This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Marcella Cucina, by Marcella Hazan, gifted to me years ago by my friend and client, Carl Tuerk.  Marcella was introduced to the dish by her friend from Amalfi, Pierino Jovine, and her first reaction was, “Who wants to eat fish in water?” As it turns out, water is the medium that brings together all of the seasoning ingredients.  This is easily my favorite fish recipe.   I hope you like it also.   Fish in Crazy Water


1 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced (I use a potato peeler)

2 tablespoons minced parsley

1/8 teaspoon chopped fresh red chili pepper, or more to taste

Sea Salt to taste

4 cups spring or filtered water

1 1/2 to 2 lbs. red snapper or similar fish, filleted with skin left on



  1. 1.  Peel the tomatoes raw using a swiveling-blade vegetable peeler, and chop them coarsely with all their juices and seeds. They should yield about 2 cups. 
  2. 2.  Choose a saute pan in which the fish fillets can subsequently fit flat without overlapping.  Put in the water, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, chili pepper, olive oil, and salt.  Cover the pan, turn the heat to medium for 45 minutes. 
  3. 3.   Uncover the pan, turn up the heat, and boil the liquid down to half its original volume.
  4. 4.   Add the fish, skin facing up.  Cook for 2 minutes, the  gently turn it over, using two spatulas to avoid breaking it up.  Add a little more salt and cook for another 12 minutes or so.
  5. 5.  Serve the fillets promptly, spooning the remaining sauce over top. 
  6. Serves 4

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