Are you familiar with moqueca? I only tried it for the first time last week, and it was amazing, and now I feel like I have to make up for lost time by making it at least twice a week for the next 5 months or so. I also feel like all the Brazilians I know owe me an apology for never calling this delightfully rich and simple seafood soup to my attention.
I know a relatively good number of Brazilians because I worked with some Brazilian community organizations in my work in Boston. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or just the individuals I knew, but they were, to a person, truly wonderful. It’s hard to imagine more enthusiasm and ebullience packed into a single person than there was in my various friends from Brazil. They seeped enthusiasm from their pores. They were all noisy, chatty, engaging, and constantly saying that things were “beautiful.” I’m sure not everyone from Brazil talks a mile a minute, but everyone I met did!
I love them. But they never told me about moqueca, and I plan on holding it against them. They would go on and on about Pão de Queijo – a puffy cheese bread that tastes like fluffy bites of Kraft macaroni and cheese (it’s kind of amazing) – and these little dulce de leche truffle thingies called brigadeiros, both of which are good and all, but they aren’t super speedy, super easy, healthy and ridiculously flavorful weeknight meals. Moqueca is.
You can use any kind of seafood you wish for moqueca, and from there it’s just a lot of chopping of aromatics like garlic, onion and pepper, then saute, add a bit of coconut milk and tomato, stir in your chosen fishies (and/or shellfishies) and garnish with lime and cilantro. It’s simple, but what you get is so much more flavorful than the sum of its parts. I can’t stop giving it as a dinner suggestion to anyone within earshot. So now I’m suggesting it to you.
This particular recipe is from an old Food and Wine magazine. After making it and falling in love with it, I went back and looked at it again, and only then did I notice it was from Eric Ripert, aka the god of seafood. A fantastic chef’s version of a Brazilian recipe…just in time to miss Carnevale. Oops. But you could still use it for eating fish on Fridays for Lent, if you’re into that. Even if you normally aren’t, this stew might give you a reason to start!
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small onion, cut into ½-inch dice
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, tough outer leaves discarded and stalk smashed
- 3 tomatoes, cut in ¼-inch dice
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1½ pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 3 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- ½ pound skinless grouper fillet (or other firm white fish), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Heat the oil in a medium sized heavy-bottomed, wide pot. Add the shallots, garlic, onion, bell pepper, ginger and lemongrass and cook over medium heat until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes plus a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes.
- Season the shrimp with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot along with the coconut milk and 2 Tbs. cilantro. Cover and cook for 2 minutes.
- Season the fish with salt and pepper, stir it into the pot, cover and cook for just until the fish is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove the lemongrass then stir in the lime juice and adjust the salt and pepper to your taste. Garnish the stew with the chopped cilantro and serve over rice. It's also reeeeally good served over mashed butternut squash.