Martha Rose Shulman’s Quick-Braised Fish With Baby Potatoes & Greens

February 20, 2018

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: When you take flavorful ingredients like anchovies, garlic, and nuts and smack them together into a paste, they don’t just become a sauce you can smear or soften in oil, but one you can unleash to bloom in water to flavor just about anything, instantly. Or, as Martha Rose Shulman says, “And voilà: a quick Mediterranean broth.” Here, it’s a delicate fish like halibut (or whatever is swimming nearer to you)—but you can use this technique with all sorts of other things that would benefit from a flavor boost: greens, pasta, couscous, beans. Not only is the trick speedy, it’s endlessly customizable. Pound in shallots or fennel seed or chiles at will, as you might when DIYing herby salsas and pestos. Adapted slightly from the New York Times.Genius Recipes

Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 min


  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons lightly toasted almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves, green shoots removed, or 4 green garlic cloves
  • 2 anchovies, rinsed
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 5- to 6-ounce halibut fillets (or substitute another firm, mild fish)
  • 1 pound baby potatoes, cut in 3/4-inch pieces, or small potatoes, halved and sliced about 3/4-inch thick
  • 3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut in 2-inch lengths (or when asparagus isn’t in season, substitute another green like spinach or peas)
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil
In This Recipe


  1. Crush saffron threads between your fingers and place in a small bowl or ramekin. Add 1 tablespoon warm water and set aside.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, pound together almonds, garlic and anchovies along with a pinch of salt into a paste. Set aside.
  3. In a heavy straight-sided skillet or wide saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, sear fish for 1 minute on each side. Remove to a plate or platter.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add anchovy paste to pan. Cook, stirring and scraping bottom of pan, until garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Stir in 3 cups water and stir to deglaze bottom of pan.
  5. Add potatoes and a pinch of salt. (Don’t salt to taste now or broth will become too salty when reduced later.) Bring to a boil. Add saffron with soaking water, reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are just tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Carefully add seared halibut fillets and asparagus to pan. Tip in any liquid that has accumulated on the plate or platter, and bring back to a bare simmer. Cover and poach gently for 5 minutes, or until fish is opaque and asparagus is tender. With a slotted spoon or tongs, carefully remove fish fillets to 4 warm wide soup bowls. (If your fish fillets start to break apart, don’t worry! Re-brand this as more of a seafood stew and it will still be delicious.) If necessary, simmer asparagus for another minute or 2. It should be tender but not too soft.
  7. Divide potatoes and asparagus among the bowls. Turn up heat and reduce liquid in pan by half, stirring. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in parsley and basil and simmer 20 to 30 seconds. Spoon broth over fish and vegetables and serve.

More Great Recipes:
Mediterranean|Parsley|Potato|Seafood|Saffron|Anchovy|One-Pot Wonders|Winter|Fall|Easter|Father's Day|Mother's Day

Reviews (16) Questions (0)

16 Reviews

Karen March 11, 2018
Made this tonight- used vegetable stock and it was very flavourful! Wondering if the anchovy/garlic/almond paste could be made and frozen in advance? I have anchovies left over from the tin and wondering if I can make some paste for next time.
kathleen March 6, 2018
I made this last night and it was delicious. I used rockfish and I didn't have basil, so I subbed in parsley. I also added shallots. It was flavorful, light, and a perfect spring transition soup.
Jenn March 1, 2018
This was delicious! I used chicken broth instead of water. Highly recommend.
Tara February 26, 2018
YUM! Made this tonight! I added chopped tomatoes (b/c they needed to be used) and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes to the broth, absolutely delicious and easy!!!
Carol E. February 24, 2018
Would salmon fillets be too strong tasting for this recipe?
Kristen M. February 25, 2018
I think the technique is more beneficial to fish that doesn't taste quite as delicious on its own as salmon does (and the delicacy of the saffron flavor might get a bit lost). But it will probably still taste pretty darn good, so if you decide to try it, let us know how it goes.
Marcie February 22, 2018
Is it two tinned anchovies or two salt-packed anchovies? And I usually count one salt-packed anchovy as 3 from a tin, is its about right?
Kristen M. February 22, 2018
I used 2 tinned anchovies, but this is quite flexible (depending on how much you like anchovies, and it sounds like you like them!).
Paulaob February 21, 2018
After searing the fish, it is removed from pan while potatoes cook for 15 minutes? It’s ok to have the fish sit that long before adding it back to broth to finish cooking?
Kristen M. February 22, 2018
Yes, if the fish is fresh to begin with, it should be fine.
kimzy February 21, 2018
Can anchovy paste be substituted for the anchovies? If so, how much?
Kristen M. February 22, 2018
Sure, if that's what you have on hand. I'd start with a couple teaspoons and you could always stir in more to taste.
Arrxx February 21, 2018
Halibut has become wildly expensive. What other fish do you recommend?
Kristen M. February 22, 2018
I'd recommend any firm, mild white fish for a close substitute, though this would be delicious with something stronger-flavored like bluefish, too. (Either way, I like to ask the fishmonger or check Seafood Watch for recommendations on sustainably sourced fish.)
Fen P. February 21, 2018
Would mustard greens work? And would you just wilt them in at the end?
Kristen M. February 22, 2018
They might be a little too intense and spicy for the flavors here, if you have a choice of a milder green. (But if that's what you have on hand, I'd still go for it.) And yes, cook just till tender at the end—just like the asparagus.