I could not think of a better dish to prepare for Easter than seeyadeeye! I remember these special occasions when we had it at home when I would lick my lips in anticipation! Seeyadeeye incorporates the best fresh fish caught that day along with glistening browned rice, golden pine nuts and a caramelized onion sauce. I remember my grandmother announcing triumphantly that she had found a lokoz (type of grouper found in the Mediterranean) that met her high standards. We were going to have seeyadeeyeh!
As usual in Lebanese cuisine, this dish can (and should) be prepared in stages. The most important is making the fish stock. I can’t tell you how many supermarkets and even seafood markets I called to try and find the fish heads that my mother had told me were essential for a successful seeyadeeyeh! I finally decided to try a Vietnamese supermarket and found there a fantastic seafood section with all kinds of fresh fish, live fish swimming in huge tanks and all the fish heads my heart desired! Relief.
Now, after the stock is done comes the baking or poaching of the fish and cooking of the rice. The final touches involve toasting the pine nuts and making the sauce with a little stock and lemon juice.
This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Al-Tabekh Al-Arabi,from Lina Bassam Shbaro.
The quantity will serve 8 people.
4 lbs white fish such as a striped bass or grouper or snapper, filleted and head and other parts kept for the stock
2 lbs (total) of fish heads, including the head of the fish that is to be served
1 1/2 lbs of yellow onions, chopped coarsely in a food processor
3 cups of either Jasmine or Basmati or any long-grain rice
Spices: 2 teaspoons of salt (or to taste), 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 Tablespoon of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of pine nuts, sauteed in 3 Tablespoons of butter or toasted in a 350F oven till golden brown
6 cups of water
1 lemon, juiced
- Prepare the fish stock: Heat about 1/4 cup of oil in a large pot. When hot, drop the fish heads in it and brown them for 15 minutes, flipping them from time to time. Don’t let them burn.
- Remove the fish heads, place them in a plate nearby and drop the chopped onions in the pot instead, adding more oil if necessary. Let the onions brown but not burn for 30 minutes. One option is to add a touch of brown sugar to the onions to speed the process. Place the fish heads back in the pot with the onions. Add the spices, mix well, then add 6 cups of water.
- Let the stock simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour the stock through a sieve into a large bowl, pressing the heads and onions to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the fish heads and other bones.
- Prepare the rice by heating 5 cups of fish stock (keeping one cup of stock to use for the sauce). When the stock simmers, drop the rice and close the lid. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes then low heat for another 10 or 15 minutes until the rice is thoroughly cooked, adding water if necessary. Taste the rice for seasonings, adding more spices if needed.
- Bake the fish fillets in a 375F oven till they flake easily with a fork, about 15 minutes. Cool then cut them in individual portions, discarding skin and stray bones.
- When ready to serve, place the rice on a platter, the individual fish portions on top and the toasted pine nuts as a garnish throughout. Prepare the sauce by heating the remaining cup of fish stock and adding to it the juice of one lemon. Sahteyn!
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