Portuguese Fish Stew

February 1, 2012

Aunt Suzy says . . .

We’re going to focus on soups for February this year here at S&SK.  Typically February is definitely soup weather in these Northern climes, but it’s been very mild.  Nonetheless, it just seems like the right time for soups, stews and chilis, and I thought this fish stew would be a great place to start.  It has many layers of bright flavors and is easy to make.  Randy found this a few years ago in an old cookbook of mine, The Natural Health Cook Book, and it was an immediate hit!  We try to make it at least once a winter.  Serve with a baguette and a French or Italian white that’s on the richer side, with no oak.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder

Pinch of ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained (liquid reserved for another use)

1 small butternut squash, cut in chunks

4-5 medium potatoes, yellow or gold, cut in chunks

1 bay leaf

2 3-inch strips orange peel (orange part only, no pith)

2 cups water

1 1/2 pounds codfish fillet, cut in 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven with the olive oil and heat on a medium burner.  Add the onions, garlic and salt, stirring until coated with the oil.  Cover the pot tightly and “sweat” the onions over medium low heat for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally to make sure they don’t burn.  When done, add the ground fennel and the cloves and cook one minute.  Add the saffron, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, bay leaf, orange peel and water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are soft (about 20 minutes).  Add the fish and cook until opaque, about 5 minutes.  Season with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

COOK’S NOTES:  For the squash, I prefer roasting it first and then cutting in chunks.  This takes more time, but results in a creamier texture and chunks that hold their shape better.  See here for the method.  Sweating the onions and garlic is designed to make them softer.  Make sure you add the salt and watch carefully!  Mine burned a little, but this did not diminish the deliciousness of the soup. I think you could saute instead of sweat if pressed for time. You can create the base for the soup a day ahead and reheat before adding the fish.