One of my favorite meals would have to be Cioppino, which is a San Francisco-style fish stew. What I really love about this dish is that every time you cook it, the flavor is slightly different depending on what types of fish and seafood are used. By using a variety of fresh clams, crabs, scallops, shrimp and fish, the taste might be slightly more sweet if using king crab legs, or a bit more rustic if using cod, mussels and shrimp. Regardless of the specific types of ingredients used, by using only the freshest fish and shellfish available, you will always have a successful dish.
This Brazillian version of fish stew, also called Moqueca, is from Capixaba in southern Brazil. Our dish was inspired by a recipe from Heguiberto over at Weird Combinations. The general recipe is quite similar to Cioppino, but for this dish we included Swai fillets and since our tiny town has no source for the traditional urucum powder (used for color and a little spice in the dish) we substituted a bit of Ground Annato and the results were wonderful. I thought about trying smoked paprika as a substitute and might try that next time. The original recipe did call for a generous amount of cilantro, which is one herb I'm still not crazy about, so we left that out of our version.
Serving the stew was actually quite interesting. A serving of rice is placed in the center of the dish and the stew is served along one side, with a scoop of Shrimp or Crab Pirao, ladled onto the opposite side. The pirao is a lightly flavored broth soup, and is a nice addition to the thick consistency of the fish stew, but it is optional for this dish as the stew itself makes a great meal.
1 1/2 lbs Swai Fillets, about 5 fillets each cut into 3 pieces
1 1/2 TB Lime Juice
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
1-1/3 tsp Ground Annato (find in Mexican food section)
3 - 4 Green Onions, chopped
1/2 Small Yellow Onion, minced
1 lb Medium Shrimp, cleaned and deveined
2 TB Olive Oil
1 14 oz can Diced Tomatoes
Crushed Red Pepper
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
Rinse fish and pat dry. Place the fish in a glass bowl, season with salt and pepper and add lime juice, stirring to combine. Let stand 20 minutes.
In a large deep soup pot, add 2 TB olive oil and saute the yellow onion and garlic until translucent. Add the ground annato to the pot and stir.
Add the tomatoes in a layer over the onions and garlic, then add the green onions in another layer, and finally top with the pieces of fish, carefully pushing them into the stew. Drizzle the remaining fish juices into the pot, sprinkle with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste (I used about a 1/2 teaspoon). Cover the pan and cook for about 12 minutes over medium heat. Avoid stirring to prevent the fish from breaking apart, just gently shake the pan a few times while cooking to combine.
When the fish begins to turn opaque, add the shrimp to the top of the stew and recover the pot. When the shrimp are nice and pink the stew is ready to serve. This will only take about 5 minutes.
Serve with a scoop of brown or white rice. Serves about 6. Enjoy!!