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Dish Of The Week: Cod In Crazy Water And Magic Paper

Jonathan Schofield smells something fishy in Cicchetti

Written by . Published on August 4th 2011.

Dish Of The Week: Cod In Crazy Water And Magic Paper


Merluzzo alla Livornese


Cicchetti, King Street West (in the south west corner of Kendals, House of Fraser), City, 0161 834 6226

How much?


Translate please

The name means 'cod cooked in the Livornese way'. Livorno is a port city on the western side of Italy. It's all right too, not the most attractive place but worth half a day's tourism, more of a working town though. The Brit gents on the Grand Tour in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used to call it Leghorn. It was a port where lots of the romantic poets, Byron, Shelley and the like, sailed from. In fact it was the last place on earth where Shelley stood, before he drowned as the ship he was on foundered in sharp twenty minute storm. But shall I talk about the dish?

Yes, please

The secret lies in the preparation by chef Francesco Guarracino. He prepares it in magic paper with crazy water.

Eh, have we regressed to nursery school?

Nope, magic paper or witch paper, 'carta fata' in Italian, allows all the ingredients in a dish to cook in the oven together, aiding absorption of flavours and minerals from the other. It maximises the mingling of the raw materials: cod, olives, capers, cherry tomatoes, white wine and two un-sung extra special babies, crazy water and mint.

San Carlo Cicchetti Merluzzo Alla Livornese In Carta Fata                                  San Carlo Cicchetti Merluzzo Alla Livornese In Carta Fata

Mint with white fish? Crazy water?

Crazy water is salt water, the only spare water sailors on boats had to hand for the cooking process. Mint sounds scary, it should choke all the other flavours in the dish. Instead it gives the flavours a lift at the back of the throat. Presented in a big skillet, there's a bit of ceremony too.

Go on

Guarracino, who incidentally is a lovely enthusiastic Italian with the best accent ever, opened the bag by releasing gold string at each end. The eruption of glorious food smells was like a volcano going off. Steam everywhere. And the result was true to the promise, a delicious festival of ingredients, dancing around a perfectly cooked cod which nestled in a crazy water fish stock that had to be spooned up like soup. A brilliant dish. Rustic. Robust. If you're passing nip in and try it, it's worth every penny.

Pictures aside from the last on this page from The Vain.

San Carlo Cicchetti Merluzzo Alla Livornese Francesco Presents The DishSan Carlo Cicchetti Merluzzo Alla Livornese Francesco Presents The Dish

Carta Fata, magic paperCarta Fata, Magic Paper


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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Jonathan Schofield - editor and poetAugust 4th 2011.

I once wrote a Clerihew about Shelley which I was inordinately proud of. A Clerihew is a short biographical poem of four lines with two rhyming couplets. It was published in my University magazine and led to absolutely nothing. Here it is.

Percy Bysshe Shelley,
Never got on telly.
That's because he drowned,
Before it came around.

Thank you and goodnight

Andrew Sullivan - estate agent and poetAugust 4th 2011.

Excellent looking dish, will be into sample it very soon. In the meantime.....

That big Livorno cod,
Looks really very good.
My eyes start to glint
'Cos it tastes of mint.

Thank you and goodnight

Caspar - friendly ghost and poetAugust 4th 2011.

So chef Francesco Guarracino
Cooks cod like sailors from Livorno.
But does he dance a caper
When he applies his magic paper?

Thank you and good night

Harrison - accountant and poetAugust 4th 2011.

The restaurant Cicchetti
Rhymes with spaghetti.
But that eternal fish called cod,
Rhymes with the Big One - God.

Thank you and good night

Cobbydaler - Pharmaceutical Technologist and PoetAugust 4th 2011.

You were right about Shelley
But not on your Nellie
When talked about Byrom
It should have been Byron

Jonathan Schofield - editor and poetAugust 5th 2011.

Twas a slip of the wrist
Must have been pissed
Wrong name for a poet
When I really did know it

Cobbydaler - Pharmaceutical Technologist and PoetAugust 6th 2011.

Well that's all reet
Must have been name of street
Opposite Quay House
Which affected your nouse

PedroApril 30th 2013.

phoney not a chef, imbarassement for italian chefs !!!!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Speller JackApril 30th 2013.

Do you mean embarrassment for Italian chefs? Oh dear.

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