Puerto Rican Fish Stew

Recipe slightly modified from: http://www.eatingwell.com

Puerto rican fish stewI will be honest; I am not familiar with Puerto Rican cuisine. Actually, I haven’t even been to a Puerto Rican restaurant. I only decided to try this recipe because it has avocado in it, and I had a big jar of pimento-stuffed olives I bought by mistake that I didn’t know what to do with. I’m aware the statement is wrong in so many ways that it is making my qualifications as somebody who writes a cooking blog even more questionable. But all I have to say is that I’m now finishing the third jar of pimento-stuffed olives, and they are solely used for this dish in my house.

Rewound to a few months ago – I really didn’t expect much from this dish. Sure it includes a couple of things I didn’t think about adding to “stew” such as olives and capers. But other ingredients are fairly basic – Garlic, onion, tomato, pepper, and fish. Only spice/herb listed in the recipe are oregano and cilantro, while usual Latin American heavy hitters like cumin, chilli powder, or cayenne didn’t seem to have made the cut. I was skeptical but then thought: How bad could it be? I mean, you can’t possibly go THAT wrong with these. Plus it’s from eatingwell.com, so I get to be skinny at least (Isn’t that how it works?).

Shame on me.

Ever since that first bite and 3 olive jars later, I’m still trying to figure out what exactly is making this dish taste so damn good. Those humble ingredients, simply sauteed and cooked together for mere 30 minutes, are elevated to fresh but rich and deeply nourishing concoction with the flavor that is distinctive and oh-so-addictive but I cannot quite pinpoint – No specific taste stands out, it’s just that everything is merged and perfectly balanced to be one seriously delicious bowl of stew.

For fish, I usually make this with ubiquitous and sustainable (as well as reasonably priced) tilapia, but I suppose other flaky white fish such as haddock or cod can be also used. Once I made this with salmon and it was still delicious. For pepper, I often use poblanos for their mild kicks but have cooked this with green bell pepper and liked how their thick flesh becomes soften to provide meaty texture.

Now the dish has secured its position in my dinner Hall of Fame and every time I savor the bowl, the bliss reminds me of why I cook – To discover tastes and flavors I haven’t experienced that I would love, even in easy and quick everyday dishes. In other words, pure paranoia and greed ending with complete obsession…But in a good way.

RECIPE (2 Servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz flaky white fish, such as tilapia, haddock or cod, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • ½ 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 poblano chile peppers or 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup packed chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 tablespoons sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup fish broth (or equivalent amount of fish broth granules if you like it less soupy)
  • ½ avocado, chopped

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  2. Add fish, tomatoes and their juices, peppers, cilantro, olives, capers, oregano and salt. Stir to combine. Add ¼ cup fish broth, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.**
  3. Remove from heat and serve warm or room temperature, topped with avocado.

** Cooking time depends on your preferred soupy-ness. The original recipe requires 20 minutes and suggests to serve with crusty rolls to soak up the juices, but I like cooking a bit more so it becomes less soupy, and eat it with rice. Make sure to simmer gently and use rubber spatula to stir (if necessary) so the fish chunks don’t break down.

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