Oh man, it’s been so long since I’ve posted here! I would explain, but you’ve already heard my excuses. So instead I will just get straight to the point.
I intend to redeem myself for my long absence by sharing with you, this stew:
This is Brazilian Fish Stew (or Moqueca if you’re fancy). It is by far one my favorite dishes of all time and – if you like fish…and stew – I can almost guarantee that it will be one of yours too. It is ahh-mazing.
I do a lot of cooking around here (although not as much writing about it as I wish I could, obviously!) and the first time I made this stew my boyfriend immediately proclaimed it The Best Thing I’ve Ever Made. He is not a tough critic, mind you, but it is the only time (before or since) that he’s thrown out that superlative.
I got the recipe from Simply Recipes, but I don’t at all remember how I happened upon it. All I know is that one chilly March Sunday in Northern Virginia I made a batch and we slurped up the whole pot, oohing and ahhing all the while. I remember David being genuinely upset when he got full because it meant that he couldn’t eat it anymore.
In truth, it is not that different from other types of seafood stew: a rich, flavorful broth swimming with big, juicy chunks of fish (or other seafood). And I have to say, I haven’t yet met a seafood stew I don’t like. But this one holds a special place in my heart.
The broth is bright, creamy, and just spicy enough. The veggie to fish ratio is about 50/50 (perfect, in my opinion). The fish is first marinated in lime juice and garlic, then stewed in the broth-y goodness until cooked just right.
I’ve never been to Brazil, so I can’t say that this stew makes me feel like I’m there because I don’t know what that feels like. And, ironically, the one ingredient that makes this stew characteristically Brazilian – palm oil – is generally left out because it is very hard to come by in the U.S. Someday I will find palm oil and I will make this stew with it! Someday! (On a side note, if you know where to get it, please do let me know).
What I can say is that this stew makes me feel warm and happy inside, no matter how cold, dark, snowy or incessantly rainy it might be outside. What more could you ask for?!
I’m just finishing up my second quarter of grad school (one…project…left…) and it has been quite a doozy. So, after spending the better part of the past two months feeling like my brain is a punching bag for an angry gorilla, this stew was just the lift I needed to make it through the home stretch.
I hope it can do as much for you.
Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca)
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes 6 servings (enough for leftovers, or a dinner party if you can bear to share it!)
Over the past couple years I’ve been slightly changing this dish to suit our tastes, so you should feel free to do the same. Or, you could go back to the original recipe linked to above. Either way, you will be happy! Also note that my adapted recipe below is a bigger batch than the original because we always want more of this stew and need to be able to eat it for multiple days in a row.
- 2 lbs of fillets of firm white fish (I’ve always used cod), bones removed (if applicable, I tend to use thawed frozen fish so this isn’t an issue), cut into large portions
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp lime juice
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 yellow and 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (I often use a mix of fresh and canned)
- 1/4 cup scallion greens (i.e. only the tops!), chopped
- 1 – 1 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped with some set aside for garnish (I usually just use the whole bunch)
- 2 14-ounce cans lite coconut milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp palm oil (completely optional, but use it if you can find it and tell me what it’s like!)
Place fish pieces in a bowl, add the minced garlic and lime juice. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Turn pieces over with a pair of tongs so that all get well coated, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Keep chilled while preparing the rest of the stew.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the chopped onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened.
Add the bell peppers, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste. Cook for a 3-4 minutes longer, until the bell pepper begins to soften.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes and scallion greens. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered. Then stir in the chopped cilantro.
At this point, remove about half of the vegetables and reserve them in a bowl (you’ll put them right back in). Spread the remaining vegetables over the bottom of the pan to create a bed for the fish. Arrange the fish pieces (in one layer if possible) on top of the vegetables. Dump the lime juice and garlic from the fish marinade into the pot as well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then add the rest of the vegetables back in, covering the fish.
Pour coconut milk and lemon juice (and palm oil, if using) over the fish and vegetables, don’t stir. Cover and bring soup to a simmer, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. You can stir once or twice during this time, but the less stirring, the better (in order to keep the fish pieces intact).
Taste and adjust seasonings. You will likely need to add more salt, and can also add more pepper, chili flakes, lemon juice, etc. if desired.
Once you have it seasoned to your taste, let the pot sit on low (just enough to keep it warm) for 5-10 minutes. You can eat it right away, but it is even better when the flavors have more time to mingle and develop.
Garnish with cilantro. Serve with crusty bread if you have it, but it is also a fine meal on its own.