Traditionally fritto misto is a dish of fried seafood and vegetables. Last night, I lightened it up by leaving the vegetables uncooked for dipping into a luxurious sauce flavored with garlic and anchovies. Bagna càuda loosely translates as hot bath. Intensely flavored, it heightens the fresh crunch of vegetables that have gone for a quick swim around the bowl. This is sophisticated but familiar game day food: bite-sized pieces of fried fish and shellfish along with crispy, seasonal crudités and a warm, creamy dip. A nibble here, a bite here and you’ll be satisfied without having gone around the bend.
Fritto Misto and Bagna Càuda, serves 2 to 3
For the Bagna Càuda:
c whole milk or half and half
6 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and minced
2/3 c olive oil
Assorted crudités – I used carrots, celery, radishes, fennel, and blanched green beans
In a small pot, combine the milk, garlic and anchovies and simmer over medium low heat for 15 minutes, or until the garlic cloves have softened. Using an immersion blender or plain old blender, puree all ingredients together while slowly drizzling in the olive oil. Keep warm over low heat.
For the fritto misto:
1 haddock fillet, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
6 clams, shucked
6 shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 small squid, cleaned, bodies sliced in rings, tentacles left intact
1 lemon, sliced in six wedges
Cornmeal for dredging
Salt, pepper, vegetable oil
Place a generous amount (approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups) of cornmeal and season well with salt and pepper. Dredge all fish and seafood in the seasoned cornmeal and place on a plate to the side. Dredge four lemon wedges as well. In a medium sized pot, heat vegetable oil until it reaches 350 degrees F. Working in batches, fry the seafood until it is golden brown and cooked through taking care not to crowd the pan. Times will vary for each, clams take only a couple of minutes, the haddock longer; use your good judgment. Drain the pieces on a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm.
Place seafood and fish on a large, newspaper-lined plate. Pour the warm bagna càuda into a small bowl, surround with the crudités on a platter.
Playlist included Puccini’s E Lucevan Le Stelle as sung by the smoldering Roberto Alagna.