I remember as a young man checking out some of the wilder Brazilian restaurants in NYC. I fell in love with the raw, unvarnished lust for food that the Brazilians have—and of course, their sensuality comes dripping off their music, dance and all-around sexy lifestyle. It took me years to get to Brazil to taste and explore their food for myself. Although I had been cooking this dish for 20 years, I was not prepared for the boldness of the seafood bowls that I tasted up and down the coast of Brazil. This is a traditional moqueca, which is a fish stew. Brazilian seafood stews of this type will blow your mind. Every time I cook this dish for friends and family, the reaction is the same: amazement.
Make this as varied as you like – many restaurants in Brazil make their stews with cuttlefish, local species of crab, crayfish, langoustes and other assorted fish and shellfish.
Brazilian Fish, Shrimp & Mussel Stew
- 1 pound skinless halibut fillet, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced (2 1/2 tablespoons)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups bottled clam juice
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 pound mussels, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons natural cashew butter
In a medium bowl, toss the fish with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Drain and pat dry.
In a large pot, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the fish in a single layer and brown on one side only over moderately high heat, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add the onion, chiles, garlic and the 1/4 cup chopped cilantro to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, coating the vegetables. Add the clam juice and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to moderate and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer until thickened slightly, about 3 minutes.
Return the fish to the pot. Add the shrimp, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are almost cooked through, about 2 minutes. Nestle the mussels into the stew, cover, and cook until the mussels have opened, about 2 minutes.
Whisk the cashew butter with 2 tablespoons of hot water, then stir it into the stew. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice and season with salt. Transfer the stew to bowls, garnish with cilantro and serve.
Originally published in Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures on foodandwine.com.
Photo by Stephanie Meyer.