Monday, April 11, 2011

Seafood stew deconstructed

In coastal areas around the world, the traditional seafood stews are based on the same flavor-building technique: the flavor base is prepared with aromatic vegetables, herbs, spices, small fish, fish and shellfish trimmings; then the "nice" fish and shellfish are dropped into the base and simmered just long enough to cook through. They become the stars of the show, while the flavor base provides the ambiance, often with rice, noodles, or bread as a background. Bouillabaisse of Marselles, San Francisco chioppino, paella, jambalaya, Russian ookha, seafood chowders of the US East Coast, Thai seafood curries are all based on this winning principle.

This stew is my take on Brazilian mariscada, with a lot of adjustments to my own taste and ingredients at hand, and it's based on the same universal idea.
Lemon and white wine are seafood's natural partners, and I love the tropical islands reference added by coconut milk. It would be better to make seafood stock with shrimp shells and heads, but this time I only had shells - they had to do. Serves 4.

Flavor base:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small can diced tomatoes, with juice
Stock made with shrimp shells, 1 cup white wine, plus water to cover, strained
Pinch saffron
Pinch cayenne
1 tsp smoked paprika
Sea salt, fresh ground white pepper

Heat oil in a large deep pan. Add onion and garlic, cook over medium-low heat until onions are transparent but not browning. Add pepper and tomatoes with their juice, simmer over low heat until vegetables are very soft and the liquid starts to reduce. Add seafood stock, cook another 10 minutes. Season with saffron, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper.

4 large sea scallops
12 large shrimps, peeled, tails on (use shells for the stock)
1 pound white fish (I had cod and barramundi), cut into bite-size pieces
12 langoustine tails

Increase heat to medium. Add scallops. Cook 2 minutes. Add fish and shrimps. Cook until opaque and the shrimps turn red. Add langoustine tails.

To finish:
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Add coconut milk and lemon juice. Heat through. Adjust seasoning. Remove from heat.

To serve:
Small bunch cilantro, minced
Lemon slices
Cooked white rice

Serve over white rice, garnish with cilantro and lemon.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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