Let's try a new fish today! And we'll make it a pretty one...
Portugal first introduced me to corvina, as it was wholly unfamiliar to me before moving to Lisbon. Sea bass and salmon and tuna are all more common and familiar, and for months, those were my go-to options when ordering out or cooking at home. But as I started branching out, corvina finally made it to my plate.
Thank goodness. I had no idea what I'd been missing.
After trying different preparations in typical Portuguese restaurants, I started experimenting in my own kitchen and found that corvina's sweet taste proved to be a perfect fit for a simple recipe of salt, pepper and lemon zest, up to complex stew preparations.
This recipe falls somewhere in between. The creamy harissa chickpeas and spinach are rich and flavorful and benefit from the added pickled vegetables. The corvina is quick-marinated in harissa and pickling juice, then pan-seared, sealing in those richly savory flavors. The whole gorgeous heap is topped with crispy shallots (store-bought work just fine!) and you'll serve this one feeling like a million bucks.
More about corvina:
This is a white firm fish with tender, flaky meat. Corvina is a generic name for a family of fish containing hundreds of species (some of them known as white sea bass or kingfish). They can be found in the Pacific, mostly along central and south America, where corvina recipes abound in local kitchens.
It is an incredibly versatile fish, making it the ideal canvas for many of our favorite seafood cooking methods. Fillets of this delicious white fish can be prepared in almost any way imaginable. Ideal cooking methods include a baking, breading and frying and stewing. Whipping up a spice rub and tossing the fish on the grill would also make for an easy meal any day of the week.
More about harissa:
Harissa is a chili pepper paste that's deeply savory, slightly acidic, and a little sweet. It's most common in Northern Africa - I tasted it first in Morocco, where it is popular to add into couscous. You can purchase harissa in mild or hot - mild has just a touch of heat.
The creamy harissa chickpeas and spinach part of this recipe were inspired by Shilpa Uskokovic. I've simplified the process a bit and combined some elements, but the sweet / spicy / pickily magic came straight out of her brain!
What you'll need to make pan-seared corvina:
- corvina fillets
- harissa paste
- pickled giardiniera + pickling vinegar
- sea salt
- butter and canola oil
- fresh shallots
- fresh garlic
- frozen spinach
- all-purpose flour
- seafood stock or vegetable stock
- heavy cream
- canned chickpeas
- crispy shallots (store-bought)
- warm flatbread and lemon wedges for serving
Step by step instructions for making this Delicious Pan-seared Corvina over Creamy Harissa Chickpeas and Spinach recipe:
First, begin by marinating the corvina fillets. You'll want to dry the corvina fillets well with paper towels. Then in a shallow dish, combine 1 ½ tablespoons harissa paste and 3 tablespoons pickling vinegar from your jar of pickled giardiniera and ½ teaspoon salt.
We want both sides of the fish to get some marinade love. So dip the skin side of each fillet in the marinade first, then place fish skin side up in the dish, so the flesh of the fish is resting in the marinade. Set aside while preparing the creamy chickpeas and spinach.
Next, heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium. Cook sliced shallots and chopped garlic until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Next add flour and salt and whisk into the mixture for one minute.
Then add harissa, stock and chickpeas and stir to combine.
Let the mixture come up to a simmer. Afterwards add the thawed and drained spinach and stir into the chickpea mixture.
Finally, add the heavy cream and pickled giardiniera. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover with a lid or tent with aluminum foil and remove from heat.
Heat a large pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the neutral oil. Then add your marinated corvina fillets into the hot oil. If you intend to serve the fish skin side up, cook the skin side of the fish first. If you are serving skin side down or removing the skin after cooking, start with the fish flesh side down.
Next cook the fillets for 3-4 minutes on the first side. Then using a fish spatula or thin metal spatula, flip the fish, reducing the heat to medium. Cook another 2-3 minutes on the second side, until the fillets are cooked through and firm to the touch.
To serve, spoon the creamy harissa chickpeas and spinach into a large shallow bowl. Position a pan-seared piece of fish on the chickpeas. Finally pile crispy shallots on the fish and scatter the dish with pickled giardiniera.
Serve with warm flatbread and fresh lemons for squeezing over both the fish and the creamy harissa chickpeas and spinach.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions for this Corvina Fish Recipe
Several types of fish would be good substitutes, including flounder, halibut and cod. If you have a preferred variety of white fish fillets - it should work here!
Extra virgin olive oil would be a complement to the favors of the harissa paste spice mixture. But olive oil can scorch at a high heat. So if using, cook your fish over a more moderate heat - medium heat instead of medium-high. It will add a few more minutes of cooking time, and the skin likely won't crisp much, but olive oil will work well in this modified method.
Served over the creamy harissa chickpeas and spinach, this corvina dish is a one plate wonder. I do recommend serving it with warm flatbread to grab up every last drop of the creamy harissa sauce. If you must add another side, I would recommend a light, acidic salad like Mediterranean Tossed Salad or Gazpacho Salad.
Frozen fish fillets work well with this recipe. Just thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and be sure to dry thoroughly with paper towels before marinating.
There is no perfect match for the complex flavors of harissa. But adequate substitutes still exist! A few tablespoons of Korean gochujang is a good option, or curry paste will do the trick.
To store, move the creamy chickpeas and spinach to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Wrap fish tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.
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