A lot of people are afraid to eat cod these days because they have heard about the loss of historic cod stocks in New England and Newfoundland. Cod is abundant in other areas, is coming back to Newfoundland and is being managed for a rebound in New England (if water temperatures will abide). The beauty of American fisheries is that they are all managed for sustainability. You can rest assured that any American cod you buy is only on the market because the stock can support the commercial fishery (even if the fishery is extremely limited, as is the case in New England), not because the market demands it.
I love Northeast cod, and I still buy it here in Maine. But abundant Alaska cod stocks have brought high-quality Pacific cod to markets all over the country at a great price. If you see FAS or frozen-at-sea on the label, fear not! Today’s onboard processing allows fishing fleets to fillet and flash freeze the catch fresh out of the water, making for a market product that’s the next best thing to catching it yourself.
My husband and I discovered this stew (pronounced Mo-Keh-Kah) a few years ago, and it quickly became a household favorite. We’ve played around with many recipes, which is easy to do with any stew. When you toss good ingredients into a pot and simmer, you’re likely to come out with something delicious. I used P-cod this time, but it would be delicious with swordfish, haddock, snapper, tuna or cape shark (dogfish).
My only universal soup rule is to garnish with spice and acid — vinegar, lime or lemon juice, or a vinegar-based hot sauce. This soup is delicious with a fresh chili pepper and lime.
I serve this over rice and with gluten-free Brazilian cheese popovers (recipe to follow).
2.5 pounds firm fish (I used Pacific cod) cut into 2- or 3-inch pieces
1/4 cup lime juice
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
2 cups paste tomatoes, seeded, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2/3 bunch of cilantro, stems and all
2 red or orange bell peppers, in bite-size pieces
1 sweet onion, cut lengthwise into slivers
4 paste tomatoes, in bite-size pieces
1-2 cups fish or chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 dash fish sauce
Optional garnishes: smoked paprika, capers, chopped cilantro, fresh chili peppers and lime
Salt the fish, marinate in lime juice before beginning the rest, set aside, stirring occasionally.
Purée the base in a food processor. Sauté in medium soup pot (I used a 5.5-quart Dutch oven) for about 10 minutes, mainly to cook the onion.
Once the base is sautéed, add the peppers and onions, and just enough stock to cover. Simmer 5 minutes.
Add the marinated fish with lime juice, tomatoes, and coconut milk. Return to a boil, and simmer until fish is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. (The fish does not need to be covered in broth; it can sit on top and steam.)
Season to taste and serve over rice and with Brazilian cheese popovers.
Brazilian Cheese Popovers (Pão de Queijo)
1/3 cup regular olive oil or vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheese (Monterey Jack, muenster, queso fresco, cheddar, chèvre or feta)
2 cups tapioca flour
1 teaspoon salt
Optional: diced chives, rosemary, garlic scapes or herbs of your choice
Heat oven to 400. Combine ingredients in a blender and pour into a greased muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.