Stew Fish

In an homage to a different Christmas Eve tradition, I made a fish stew for dinner. Not quite the full complement of seven, but a lot easier. The style is quasi-Caribbean, but not really authentic anything. Changing up the seasonings would vary the origin, but I kept it fairly mild to showcase the fish. I used pretty much the cheapest fish that looked good at the store. Got them whole but cleaned, and cut into manageable pieces.

Ingredients
3 lbs fish
1 onion, thinly sliced
1-2 TB olive oil
4 TB tomato paste
1-2 tomatoes
1 quart broth or stock
1 stalk celery
Hot chilies
2 bay leaves
Fresh thyme
1 lemon
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
2 TB dark rum
2 TB dark brown sugar (Mexican piloncillo)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
1 package mushrooms, sliced
Cilantro and/or parsley for garnish

Procedure
1. Rinse fish, pat dry, cut into serving pieces of about 4 oz each. Season on all sides, put in bowl and squeeze juice of lemon and mix well. Set aside while making the rest.
2. Sauté onion in olive oil in large pan, add peppers, celery, and mushrooms. 3. After a few minutes, sprinkle flour over the mirepoix to make a roux. Stir until lightly browned.
4. Deglaze pan with wine, add aromatics and spices, tomato paste and mix in broth. Bring to boil and simmer gently for 10-20 minutes.
5. Add fresh tomatoes, rum, sugar, cook for another 10-20 minutes.
6. Adjust seasonings and consistency of sauce, then add fish pieces, and simmer covered for 6-10 minutes until fish is cooked through.
7. Remove from heat and garnish with lemon wedges and fresh cilantro or parsley. Serve with rice, bread, or cassava and boiled plantains

Notes
1. I used one whole pompano, one whole sheepshead, and the tail of a blue snapper (filleted by fishmonger). If you have fish with heads, add those with the broth at the beginning of cooking to flavour the sauce.
2. I didn’t have any fresh thyme, so added a bit of fresh epazote and a dried avocado leaf instead.
3. I didn’t have any bell peppers or jalapeños, so used 1 lb of mushrooms and 9 red Thai chilies. I left them whole, be sure to fish out before eating. Should have chopped up one or two to mingle with the sauce.
4. I used a whole can of tomato paste, which was a bit too much. Next time will try some coconut milk, with ginger and some allspice.

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