CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Caribbean Fish Stew

Anyone who has a I taste for the spicy, tangy and aromatic probably is a fan of Caribbean cuisine, a fusion of the foods of many cultures.

The main dishes of the region typically are a mixture of vegetables such as peppers — bells and scotch bonnet to name two — tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, onions and garlic, various meats that are locally available like beef, poultry, pork or fish and herbs like cilantro, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon and thyme.

The following recipe, which recently caught my eye, is a good example of what one might be served if dining at a fusion restaurant that specializes in this cuisine or traveling to the countries of Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba, among others.

I’ve never been to the islands, but that kind of food is right up my alley. There was no doubt in my mind that I had to try the recipe, especially since Therese had purchased some nice cod fillets and there were some colorful bell peppers on sale at our local supermarket.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, using some canned tomatoes instead of a fresh one and substituting lemon juice for fresh lemon.

But the clincher for me besides being meatless and the perfect fare for a Friday during Lent is that it’s a one-pot meal that is ready to eat in less than an hour.

Caribbean Fish Stew
1 to 2 pounds cod (cubed, 1-inch pieces)
1 medium onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (diced fine)
1 orange bell pepper (cubed)
1 yellow bell pepper (cubed)
½ scotch bonnet pepper (sliced)
½ teaspoon smoky paprika (hot)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon achiote oil (or olive oil)
2 tablespoons parsley (chopped)
1 stalk celery (sliced thin)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ medium tomato (diced)
¼ cup water
½ lemon (juice)
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a wide pan (one with a lid) on a low heat, then add onion and garlic. Make sure the heat is on very low as to not burn garlic. Cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the diced bell peppers, sliced celery and scotch bonnet pepper. (You can control the heat level by how much scotch bonnet you add.) Increase heat up to medium and stir well. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and paprika and stir well. Add black pepper, thyme, salt and fish.
Stir well. Add the tomato and parsley, with heat at medium/low. Cover pot and cook for about 5 minutes. Add water, ¼ cup or less.
Remove the lid. The cod should be fully cooked. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Turn the heat off, toss in the scallions and squeeze in the lemon juice.
Served with steamed rice.
Note: Any ocean white fish will work for this dish.

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