Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca Baiana)

Doesn't this look light and pretty? I thought moqueca was just a basic fish stew, but it actually involves an interesting cooking technique I'd never used before. The result is a less liquidy dish that goes well over rice and tastes fresh and summery.

As you can see from the title of this post, we took our inspiration from Brazil, who won their World Cup match against Ivory Coast on Sunday. I found the recipe in a very roundabout way: I have a great Brazilian cookbook written in Portuguese. But since it has lots of pictures, we combed through it for something that looked appealing, then typed the Portuguese name into google to figure out what we were dealing with. I had a general idea of what mocqueca is, and reading a few English recipes clinched the decision.

All the versions I read were some variation on this general idea: marinate fish in lime juice and a lot of spice, then layer it in a big pot with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and cilantro. A relatively small amount of coconut milk goes in so the ingredients can steam until cooked through. All the juices from the marinade, veggies and seafood marry with the coconut milk and create a flavorful broth. The finished taste is mild and comforting with just enough richness from the coconut milk.

It looks like Brazil won't be exiting the tournament anytime soon, so why not cheer them on with a Brazilian mocqueca feast? Unless of course they are the moral enemy of your favorite team!

Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca Baiana)

Thick, firmer types of fish are best here, so it cooks in about the same time as the vegetables. I often use "light" coconut milk in recipes, but in a simple, mild dish like this, the flavor of the full fat version makes a big difference. Most mocqueca recipes call for sweet paprika, which I didn't have on hand. Smoked paprika plus mild chile powder was a good substitute for my tastes, but feel free to replace them with 1 Tbs total of sweet paprika.

Serves 4

4 (4 to 6 oz) halibut fillets (or other thick, firm white fish)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbs lime juice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 Tbs olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
4 plum tomatoes, thickly sliced
1 cup cilantro (leaves and thin stems)
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
3/4 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Steamed rice, for serving
2 Tbs chopped cilantro leaves, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

Place the fish in a wide, shallow baking dish or bowl. Add the garlic, lime juice, cumin, paprika, chile powder, salt and pepper to taste; rub all over the fish, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 to 2 hours. About 15 minutes before you're ready to cook, remove from refrigerator and let fish come to room temperature.

Add the oil to a Dutch oven or large stock pot. Place over low heat and arrange half the onion in a single layer inside the pot. Make more layers with half the bell peppers, half the tomatoes and half the cilantro; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste (remember there is also salt in the marinade). Add the fish along with its marinade in a single layer. Top with layers of the remaining onion, peppers, tomatoes and cilantro. Add the coconut milk, cover the pot and raise heat to bring liquid to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, or until fish is opaque in the center. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until opaque. Serve with rice, remaining cilantro and lime wedges.


Joanne said...

I've made moqueca before and absolutely loved it! Your version looks fantastic.

Sashi said...

MMM looks so yummy.I love seafood and would love to try this recipe.

Immune boosters said...

Just reading the method has me wanting to try it. The coconut milk should be delicious with the tomatoes.