Growing up in Massachusetts meant that fresh fish and seafood was a staple of summer. Creamy clam chowder, fried clam rolls, tiny bay scallops, boiled lobsters, briny oysters-- why did I ever leave?! Luckily, Spain gives New England a run for its money when it comes to all things seafood. Razor clams, red prawns, langostines, oysters, mussels, fresh fish... the variety seems endless every time I go to the fish market.
Recently I was craving seafood stew, and decided to attempt a recipe I'd heard lots about but never had the pleasure of tasting: suquet de peix. This Catalan fish stew is said to have originated as a way to use less than perfect seafood, likely the bits that the fishermen couldn't sell at the market.
While the most authentic versions are still prepared by fishermen on the picturesque Costa Brava cove beaches, I opted for the easy road: a suquet de peix recipe from Claudia Roden's Spanish cookbook prepared in the comfort of my own kitchen. I was pleased to see that there were very few ingredients necessary (a sign of a traditional Spanish recipe for sure!) and I headed over to the market to pick up some fresh hake and jumbo shrimp.
A couple of hours later we dug in to one of the most satisfying meals I've enjoyed all summer. Was it my mom's homemade clam chowder? No. But it was just as satisfying in another way. Maybe it will become a tradition in our family (in addition to the chowder, of course!).
Catalan Fish Stew (Suquet de Peix Recipe)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 to matoes peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 pound waxy potatoes washed well (peeled if you wish) and cut into ⅓ inch thick slices
- ½ cup dry white wine or sherry like fino or manzanilla
- 1.5 cups fish stock
- A pinch of saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ pound firm white fish fillets such as hake, cod, halibut, cut into chunks
- 8 medium or large raw shrimp I prefer whole shrimp but peeled will also work
To Prepare the picada
- 10 raw almonds
- 2 large cloves of garlic peeled
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped flatleaf parsley
- Heat the the olive oil in wide and heavy pan (I used a cast iron pan) over a medium heat.
- Add the garlic, tomatoes and tomato paste, and sauté for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is reduced.
- Add the potatoes, wine and stock (make sure the potatoes are covered with liquid-- add more stock if necessary). Then add the salt, saffron and sugar.
- Cover and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes.
- To prepare the picada, coat a small skillet in olive oil and heat to medium high (but not smoking). Add the raw almonds and garlic, and brown on all sides. Remove and dry on paper towels. Once cool, pulse to a crumbly paste in your food processor or in a mortar and pestle. Add a bit of the stew's liquid if necessary to blend.
- Finally, add the fish chunks to the stew and cook for about four minutes (uncovered). Then add the shrimp and cook until just pink. If you plan to keep the stew simmering a bit longer, remove the shrimp so that they don't overcook and just add back to serve.
What's your favorite fish stew recipe? Have you tried suquet de peix?