Brazilian Seafood Stew (Moqueca de Peixe)
This weekend post is my contribution to the Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour 2010 – South of the Border. I decided to go to Brazil!
I chose to make a Brazilian Seafood Stew (or Moqueca de Peixe). It is a dish which originates in the state of Bahia in Brazil. Bahia is located in the northeastern part of Brazil and its capital city is Salvador. Salvador is located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bay of All Saints. It makes perfect sense to have a seafood stew as a representative dish from that area!
I was not familiar with preparing Moqueca de Peixe, although it sounded like something we would enjoy. I had an interesting time looking at recipes. There were many variations. Some had as few as 5 ingredients and some had a long list (of course, that is the one I chose!). I decided that this was the best combination of the recipes. I have also made several changes and additions to the original recipe.
I actually made the dish twice because I wanted to be sure the flavors were right on. We found the original seasonings to be a bit mild for our tastes, so we heated things up a bit! I find that a little heat goes really well with the coconut milk (reminiscent of Thai cooking). I used a Thai chili in place of the Serrano pepper, I threw in a pinch of saffron and also added a fair amount of Cholula sauce to the pot as well as the finished dish. We also liked additional fresh lime juice. It brightened up the flavors.
The original recipe called for scallops, however, most of the others did not, so I did not add them. I also substituted grouper for monkfish. I made my own shrimp stock to make it fresher tasting, since I had the shrimp shells to use, however, the you can use fish stock or clam juice. I think the fresh shrimp stock is less fishy and therefore, more appealing to me.
I thought finding Brazilian ingredients in Atlanta would be a cinch, however I was mistaken! The 2 ingredients that were nearly elusive were dende oil (palm oil) and farofa, however, I finally located them in a small Brazilian market. Apparently, the dende oil makes it a truly authentic Brazilian dish. I discovered that a side dish called farofa is traditionally served with the stew. It is basically a flour, that when cooked, has the consistency of couscous. It was a bit nutty in flavor. I also served the stew with jasmine rice and it was delicious as well, so do not chase all over town looking for farofa (like I did). I do think, however, that dende oil is a must and as I read online, do not substitute West African style palm oil. It is very different and much richer.
This was a delicious and light dish. It had very nice flavors, especially with the addition of a bit more heat and spice. I did check in with a native of Brazil and they said the preparation was as close to the real thing as it gets (without all the hot sauce!) . I hope you enjoy this taste of Brazil!
Here is my adaptation of the recipe from Food Network.
Moqueca de Peixe
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher salt and found that I needed to add quite a bit more than this at the end)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced (I used Thai chilis with the seeds!)
3 cups fresh shrimp stock (my recipe is below)
1 can (14 1/2 ounce) canned coconut milk (I used the full fat version)
Pinch of saffron
6 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
1 lb. grouper, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Juice of 1 lime plus a little more, to taste (we liked lots more!)
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce (I used Cholula – you may want less heat than this)
2 Tbps. dende oil (see Note)
1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 limes, flesh cut into supremes and diced
Cooked farofa (recipe below) or cooked jasmine rice, for serving
Heat a large dutch oven over low heat and add the olive oil. Sweat the onion and peppers together for about 5 minutes, or until nicely softened.
Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and chiles and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the shrimp stock, coconut milk and saffron and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender. Add the green onions and all the fish, cover, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes more, stirring together gently twice during the cooking time. Add the lime juice, dende oil, and cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes more.
Serve in large heated bowls, sprinkled with the diced limes. Serve with farofa or jasmine rice.
Shrimp Stock (adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse)
The original recipe calls for dried herbs. I used all fresh herbs. It makes a huge difference in taste!
2 lb. shrimp shells
2 qts. water
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf (fresh, if possible)
Several springs of thyme
Several sprigs of fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns
Salt to taste (depending on what you are using this for)
Rinse the shrimp shells and then place them is a large stockpot with all the ingredients.
(You can tie your herbs up in cheesecloth for easier removal or just throw them in the pot along with the shrimp, like I did!). Bring to a boil and lower the temperature to simmer. Skim the stuff that rises to the top (yuck!). Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check for salt. When the stock is ready, strain the stockpot and cool immediately using an ice bath. Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers.
* The original recipe also called for mushrooms. I did not have any on hand and it was delicious without them.
I made a small amount just to try it. You would need to make 2 or 3 times this amount to serve with the entire pot of stew.
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups farofa flour
Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the onions and sauté until tender. Add the flour and continue stirring until the mixture resembles couscous (that would be the best description).
You may need to add a little more butter if this mixture gets too dry.
Enjoy your vacation to Brazil!