Hake Fillets with Clams in Salsa Verde

This recipe is one of the front-runners of traditional Basque cooking. Salsa verde appears in many dishes: with clams alone, with monkfish or fresh cod, or with a combination of clams and hake, as in this recipe. Hake, a noble and expensive fish when caught in Cantabria's local waters and in the Bay of Biscay, is also available in the United States at good fish markets, where it is sometimes imported from Chile. Basque hake is better if you can find it: the flesh is tighter and tastier, and the skin is darker and very shiny.

Hake and Clams in Salsa Verde

We recommend using white asparagus from Navarra, which, although canned, are exceptional.

  • Serves 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate

Ingredients

  • 24 Manila or small littleneck clams
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 !/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pounds hake fillet, cut into 16 pieces
  • Salt
  • 4 white asparagus, freshly cooked or canned, halved crosswise
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered lengthwise, for garnish
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Preparation

Scrub the clams under cold running water, discarding any that fail to close to the touch. In a large bowl, combine the clams, coarse salt, and water to cover and let stand for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours so that the clams release any sand trapped in their shells. Drain.

In a large saucepan, combine the clams with the 4 cups water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they open. As the clams cook, uncover the pan occasionally and stir with a wooden spoon to encourage them all to open at about the same time. Drain the clams, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard any clams that have not opened.

In a large cazuela, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, if using, and fry, stirring often, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the garlic begins to turn golden. Sprinkle the flour over the garlic and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended. Add 3 cups of the reserving cooking liquid and the salt, parsley and wine. Decrease the heat to medium and boil, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Add more cooking liquid if you prefer a thinner sauce. Rotate the cazuela in circular motions over the burner to mix all the ingredients, and boil gently for 2 minutes, or until the sauce is blended and looks whitish green.

Sprinkle the hake pieces with the salt and place in a single layer in the sauce. Cook, turning once, for 2 minutes on each side, or until opaque at the center when tested with a knife tip. Add the clams and asparagus, shake the pan gently to prevent sticking, and simmer for 2 more minutes so heat all the ingredients through.

Garnish with the egg wedges and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately.

See also...

Basque Recipes: Basques live for cooking and eating. I haven't found a similar level of passion anywhere I have traveled. If we try to describe Basque cuisine, a fair answer might be that it is deeply felt, honors tradition, and respects the natural flavors of the ingredients. These qualities are on display in the significant number of dishes that are distinctively Basque. The international acclaim achieved by the new Basque cuisine movement led by Juan Mari Arzak is only the most recent example of how Basque cookery has influenced the tables of the rest of Spain and beyond

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