I was asked recently if I could provide a recipe that matches or comes close to some of the cream-based seafood dishes found in the finer restaurants of Tierra del Fuego. While most are rather simple, consisting of nothing more than cream, butter, parmesan cheese, and perhaps a few signature herbs and spices, I decided to pass along a more complex recipe that was submitted to a local cookbook author by the chef and owner of Tia Elvira restaurant in Ushuaia. Last November I was able to finally enjoy a meal at Tia Elvira for the first time and sample this dish, except with trout instead of Chilean sea bass (merluza negra aka black hake)–what the recipe calls for, but only after some recent research with the cookbook did I realize that the recipe has been available to me for the past few years. Part of the reason why is hinted at below but let me just say that overall, the edition in my hands, the 5th, is a bit lacking in all aspects.
Although the dish will have its own unique properties depending on what fish is used, the sauce and additional seafood ingredients also play a major part of the show. The dish we enjoyed at Tia Elvira was pure comfort food. A fillet of trout baked in a creamy sauce loaded with chunks of local king crab (centolla) and mussels, mushrooms, and topped with heaping pile of melted parmesan cheese.
Note: I have not yet tried this recipe, it was only offered as a suggestion to a reader, but figured others may be interested so here it is. When I get the chance, I’ll update this post or write a new one.
Merluza Negra a la “Tia Elvira” Recipe
Modified from the recipe by Oscar Sigel included in “La Cocina del Fin del Mundo” by Jesus Fernandez (*read notes below!!)
6 fillets of Chilean sea bass (Sub with trout or any firm fleshed fish)
150 grams (5 oz.) cooked mussels; shelled and cleaned
150 grams (5 oz.) white mushrooms; sliced
100 grams (3.5) butter
1 large onion; minced
1 liter whole milk
1 liter water
250 grams king/snow crab leg meat; broken into large pieces
1 cup chicken broth
5 tablespoons mustard
1 cup cornstarch
1 sprig of parsley; minced
grated parmesan cheese
nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350º F (gas mark 4)
Melt butter in a large deep pan over medium heat. Add onions and fry until they turn translucent, do not brown. Add milk, water, mustard, and broth and bring to a simmer. Mix cornstarch with enough cold water until the mixture turns into a very thin paste. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cornstarch mixture. Return pan to heat and continue stirring until the mixture starts to thicken then remove from heat. Add parsley and season sauce to taste with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Butter a casserole dish just large enough to evenly fit fish fillets. Add fish and top with mussels, crab meat, and mushrooms. Gently pour in sauce and cover with a generous amount of grated cheese. Bake in oven for 25 minutes.
* The recipe was horribly written both in Spanish and English (maybe French too!), lacking proper measurements for some ingredients and rather vague instructions. The amount of broth and crab meat are my guesstimates. The recipe calls for “hen broth 1″ and “shrimps of spider crab to taste.” The original instructions left out some key cooking tips so I added a few things that I would do. Also, one cup of corn starch seems like overkill for a couple of liters of liquid. If you try this recipe, start with a 1/2 cup and go from there. When I get around to trying this recipe I’ll post any corrections that need to be made. Chefs and their secrets.
I have not checked the latest version of the cookbook so perhaps most of the recipes have been edited and improved. The book is available at most bookstores and airport kiosks in Tierra del Fuego.