The word scorfano can also mean ugly in Italian, which gives an idea of the appearance of these fish, while the scientific name of the family, Scorpaena, derives from the Greek scorpion and refers to the poisonous spines that rise up along its dorsal fin.
There are two major kinds of scorpion fish in the Mediterranean: Black, which tend to be smaller (max length 10 inches, or 25 cm), and the red pictured here, which can approach 2 feet (60 cm). All are quite spiny, and as a result smaller scorpion fish are used mostly in fish stews along the lines of cacciucco or brodetto.
Larger scorpion fish are just as spiny, but have enough firm tasty white flesh to make cooking them individually a viable proposition, and they make for a dramatic presentation if left whole. Alan Davidson, who likens them to lobster, reminds his readers to eat the cheeks.
A Recipe? This is from Brindisi:
Stewed Scorpion Fish, or Scorfano in Umido
To serve 4
A red scorpion fish weighing about 3 pounds (1.4 k)
10 ripe plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tablespoons minced parsley
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and powdered hot pepper to taste
Clean the fish, scale it, and remove its fins and head. Cut it into pieces (filets will be best, and I would remove the skin), flour them, and briefly brown them in hot oil.
Take a large pot, cover the bottom with the chopped tomatoes, and lay the fish pieces over the tomatoes. Dust them with salt, hot pepper, and parsley, and add a drizzle of olive oil.
Partially cover the pot, and cook the fish over a moderate flame for about a half hour.
Scorpion Fish on About:
Bourthetto: Corfiot Fish in a Spicy Red Sauce.
Fresh pasta with Scorpion Fish Sauce.
How to Select Fresh Fish
How to Serve a Whole Fish at Table
Other Fish Recipes