Portugese Fish Stew

Well, this is actually my second post for today, as I am typing this on Thursday and will be posting it tomorrow, when you will come to read it.  Yesterday, my mom told me that I absolutely had to make this fish stew recipe that she had found through NPR.  She said that it just sounded so good, and wasn’t a soup that was laden down with cream, or really complicated.  It sounded nice.

Now, I went to the NPR website to look for the recipe, and I found it quite easily.  The recipe relies on two key components: The HUGE amount of fish, and the spice paste.  I mean huge when I say it.  There are four pounds of fish in this soup.  That’s $20 worth of fish!  Now, my mom went out and bought it, and we cooked it all, but really, I think 2 pounds would have been better.  I feel a little too fishy right now. 

Despite the absurd amount of fish, probably because Portugal is on the ocean and has to make up recipes to use all of the fish, the broth is really the crowning glory.  In order to make it, you poach all of the fish in the 4 cups or so of water, with a few onions, parsley, and olive oil.  That liquid, after the fish is removed, is used as the base for a spice paste that includes….wait…7 cloves of garlic!  Now, of course, when I saw this in the recipe I already knew that it would be good.  Anything with this much garlic has to be. 

So, yeah.  Everything worked out well with this soup.  It’s not too fishy like some, and it has its own unique blend of flavors, especially because of the 1/4 cup of wine vinegar which brightens everything.  I would advise you to make it, even if you don’t really like fish soup.  I didn’t think I did until I tried this one. 

Exerpt from NPR Article:  This recipe adapted from Ana Patuleia Ortins’ Portuguese Homestyle Cooking (Interlink 2003) is one of the first recipes I fell in love with as a new cookbook reviewer. I still remember the moment the brick-red seasoning paste dissolved into the stew and its aroma filled the house. It is an ample recipe, so sometimes I halve the amount of fish. When I do, I still use the full measure of the seasonings, as I find them irresistible. I can never find the pickled Portuguese chili peppers, but they are there principally for their heat, and the author has said they can be used interchangeably with other dried, fresh or liquid capsicums.

Recipe from:
T. Susan Chang for NPR

Makes 6 to 8 servings
4 pounds any thick cuts of white fish (halibut, hake, pollock or cod), cut into 1-inch-thick steaks or thick serving-sized fillets(I would use only 2 pounds)
1 quart water or enough to barely cover the fish
3 sprigs parsley
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In the bottom of an 8-quart pot, layer the fish and pour in enough cold water to barely cover it. Add the parsley, onions, bay leaves, salt and olive oil.
Cover tightly, place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the fish is opaque, about 20 minutes.

Seasoning Paste

7 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed or 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 pickled chili peppers, each about 1 inch long, finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon ground safflower* or paprika
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar

Using a large mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with the salt, forming a paste.
Mash in the cumin, parsley, chili peppers and safflower. Stir in the tomato paste, sugar and nutmeg. Drizzle in the olive oil followed by the vinegar. (If you do not have a mortar and pestle or yours is not large enough, make the paste in a medium bowl using the back of a spoon or a fork.) Stir to blend the ingredients well.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked fish to a serving dish. Cover and keep warm. Whisk the seasoning paste into the fish broth, making sure it is well dispersed. Simmer about 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Ladle some of the seasoned broth over the fish and serve remaining broth on the side. Or place generous pieces of fish in individual soup plates and spoon the broth over it. Serve with plenty of bread to dip in the broth.
*Portuguese ground safflower can be found in Latino markets and some supermarkets.

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About Madeleine C.

Hi I'm Madeleine and I am an avid cook and baker! Between school, homework swimming, and everything else in my life, I really enjoy cooking! I am 15 (now 16) years old, and have two brothers, both of whom have celiac disease along with my father. For this reason, I often make gluten-free things that will satisfy them as well as those who can readily consume gluten. I enjoy making the complex and the simple, and enjoy a challenge while cooking. That's just about it!