Cappon magro, such a curious recipe. Born as a poor dish, consisting mainly of leftovers and fish of little importance, over the years it became the most festive and sumptuous preparation of the Ligurian cuisine, if not even of the Italian one.
A majestic dome composed of alternating layers of various fishes and vegetables dressed with a green sauce, surrounded by shellfish, surmounted by large and showy crustaceans and richly decorated with eggs, olives, capers and vegetables. An architectural exercise rather than a culinary one.
Today Cappon magro is rarely prepared at home, if not just for the holidays. Perhaps for the cost today not indifferent of raw materials. Perhaps (and above all I would say) for the long time it takes its composition. The best Genoese restaurants offer it in the menu, but – needless to deny it – they are always versions of the original recipe revisited – in a more contained key – to meet practical needs, first of all the mono-portion.
But when you have the time and the desire to prove yourself, the result is delicious, surprising and opulent. It is not a difficult preparation itself. It’s just a question of organization.
And then the light that will shine in the eyes of your guests when they will see your Cappon magro appearing on the table will be the priceless reward for the time and care given to it!
All the traditional texts of Ligurian cuisine I consulted for the preparation of my Cappon magro, agree on the need for some mandatory ingredients: the hard crackers traditionally eaten by the sailors- and called “gallette del marinaio” – as a base, a nice fresh fish, different vegetables, the green sauce and some shellfish. But they leave all much freedom of interpretation both in the specific choice of fish and vegetables, both in the order with which the layers must be composed, and especially in the final decoration.
Below is the written recipe that I followed and the photos I made. It is a medium-rich version, without oysters and lobsters as some ancient recipe books provide for, but perhaps it is more affordable for everyone. Have fun!
(Oh, I forgot, start thinking about your Cappon Magro a few days in advance! Between shopping, cleaning and cooking fishes and vegetables separately, preparing the green sauce, composing the dish and then decorating it, it takes maybe more than a day !)
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