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Hearty Ancho Tomato Seafood Stew

Seafood stew plated
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San Francisco has cioppino, North Carolina has fish muddle and New England has clam chowder (as well as Manhattan by some odd definition).  As a matter of fact, most every culture around the world, located by a body of water, has some stewed caldron of aromatic vegetables, stock of some sort and fish, all bubbling away together at once to create a warm, aromatic and satisfying bowl of goodness.

This stew may technically be closest to a muddle but also incorporates a deep, ancho aroma that gives a nod to the boldness of Tex-Mex flavors.  This yields quite a bit, so feel free to scale down the quantities or serve for a large group of people.  Everyone will love you for this.

Ingredients & Method (yields about 10 servings)

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil, plus one tablespoon
  • 1 ½ pounds large shrimp, shells reserved
  • 1 ½ pounds cod fillets cut in 4 inch pieces (this sounds large, but they will break with heat)
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 stalks of celery, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Small handful thyme sprigs
  • 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 28 ounce whole tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons ancho paste (see recipe)
  • 1 pound potatoes, such as yukons, quartered
  • 1 head of swiss chard, chopped
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, quartered (optional but highly recommended)

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently until shells are pink.  Add water and bring to a simmer.  Cook until liquid reduces by about 2 cups, about 20 minutes.  Strain the stock and discard the shells.

In a large pot, on medium heat, add one tablespoon of oil.  Once hot add carrots, onions and celery, stirring often until vegetables are soft and develop a slightly brown color.  Season with salt.  Add ancho paste and stir to evenly coat all vegetables.  Stir in garlic, bay leaves and thyme.  Add all tomatoes and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add stock and potatoes.  Simmer for another 5 minutes and add swiss chard.  Once potatoes are just fork tender, discard thyme and bay leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Gently place seafood on top of stew.  Cover the pot and cook until fish is just opaque in the center, 3-5 minutes.  Ladle in bowls and garnish with egg.

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