Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew)
This Brazilian dish may contain a few unexpected or even unfamiliar ingredients, but they are easy to find online and worth the search. The result is a tropical fish stew mellowed by slices of plantain and coconut milk and accompanied by the traditional hot sauce called piri-piri and farofa, the toasted cassava-meal accompaniment. Farofa is served all over South America with all kinds of dishes; this version, with caramelized onions adapted from Felipe Amaral in Rio de Janeiro, was my favorite. You can serve the moqueca without the farofa, if you prefer, but it helps to sop up the soupy liquid from the stew.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 5tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1medium onion, sliced thin
- 1 ½cups manioc or cassava meal, available online and in some specialty food shops
- 1 ¾pounds black sea bass, filleted, trimmings reserved
- 12ounces large shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
- 2bay leaves
- 1small white turnip, peeled and diced
- 3medium onions
- 4large plum tomatoes
- 6ounces shishito peppers, chopped
- 2cloves garlic
- ⅓cup chopped cilantro
- ¼cup chopped chives
- 1green plantain
- ½red bell pepper, cut in rings
- 2green Cubanelle peppers, green frying peppers or 1 small green bell pepper, cut in rings
- 10ounces unsweetened coconut milk
- 4tablespoons dendê oil, or red palm oil, available online
- 6ounces cooked octopus tentacles, cut in thick slices, or raw squid in thin rings
- 1long red chile pepper, for garnish
- ½cup long grain rice, steamed
- Piri-piri or other hot sauce, for serving
Step 1Make the farofa if desired: Melt butter in a skillet or shallow saucepan on medium heat. Add sliced onion, and cook, stirring, until it turns light brown. Stir in manioc and cook, stirring, 5 to 8 minutes, until it starts to toast. Cover and keep warm.
Step 2Make the fish broth: Cut each bass fillet in 4 or 5 pieces, cover and refrigerate. Place trimmings in a 3-quart stovetop casserole, preferably an earthenware pot. Lightly salt shrimp, cover and refrigerate. Place shells in the pot. Add 5 cups water; the bay leaves; the turnip; 2 onions, chopped; 2 tomatoes, chopped; half the shishito peppers; the garlic; and half the cilantro and chives. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Step 3Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cut a slit in the skin of the plantain, wrap in foil and bake 20 minutes, until flesh is tender. Cool.
Step 4Strain broth into a bowl, pressing on the solids. Discard solids and return broth to pot. Cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 1/2 cups.
Step 5Slice remaining tomatoes and remaining onion 1/4 inch thick and add to pot. Add bell peppers, Cubanelle peppers, remaining shishito peppers, remaining chives and all but 1 tablespoon remaining cilantro. Bring to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Step 6Peel plantain and slice it 1/2 inch thick. Add to pot. Add coconut milk and dende oil. Add fish and octopus, if using, and simmer 5 minutes. Rinse and dry shrimp and squid, if using, and add to pot. Simmer 3 minutes. Check seasonings. Strew remaining cilantro on top, garnish with a red chile and serve over rice directly from the pot, with farofa and piri-piri on the side.