My favorite dish at Pyewacket, a Chapel Hill restaurant of years gone by, was called Plaki. The sauce of olive oil, white wine, and caramelized onions was addictive, not to mention the white fish that wasn’t fishy at all. I later learned that “plaki” is a Greek description for any food baked in a sauce of olive oil, wine, and aromatic vegetables. I wonder if the printed menu at Pyewacket called it by the generic name “Plaki” so the chef could use different kinds of fish depending on what was available.
On the Eastern Shore, occasionally a bounty of striped bass would come our way. Fish Plaki was a great way to prepare this firm-fleshed white fish, and over the years I collected five different recipes. Stripers still run in the Chesapeake Bay every December and our family members sometimes catch a few of them.
Fish Plaki is forgiving and you can certainly change the quantities below. I saw one recipe from England that included potatoes, which sounds like a good idea too.
2 pounds of firm-fleshed white fish such as striped bass, cod, halibut, or mackerel
1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small can whole tomatoes, preferably Italian-style, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
a few stems of Greek oregano if you have them
a few stems of mint if you have them
Heat oven to 350ºF. Salt and pepper fish and place into ceramic baking dish. Place the parsley, oregano, and mint in the baking dish.
Heat olive oil in a skillet with medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until browning and soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon slices and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, taking care not to let the garlic burn.
Pour the olive oil, onions, lemon, and garlic over the fish in the baking dish. Pour the white wine and lemon juice over the fish, and add the tomatoes including juice. Add 1/2 cup of water as needed to cover the fish.
Bake uncovered at 350ºF for 30-45 minutes or until the fish is just done.