CALDERETA DE PESCADO
Seasonal Spanish Food
by Jose Pizarro
Caldereta de pescado, or fish stew, reminds me of holidays—going to a really good fish market, picking out the best from the day's catch, then taking it all back home to play with.
This stew doesn't need complicated equipment or lots of time, so it's ideal to serve when friends come over for supper. Even better, it's easy to prepare and a complete meal in itself. It's based on a Catalan recipe that I came across on one of those aforementioned holidays. Picada is a Catalan term for a mixture of nuts, breadcrumbs, and spices used to thicken stews.
· 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
· 1/4 cup almonds
· 1/2 slice of white bread, 2 or 3 days old, torn up
· 2 garlic cloves
· 1 small onion, chopped
· 2 very ripe large tomatoes, chopped
· 1 red chile, seeds removed and diced
· 1 bay leaf
· 1 quart fish stock
· 2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 in thick
· 20 saffron threads
· 14 oz mixture of firm-fleshed fish, such as hake and sea bream
· 8 raw shrimp (shells on)
· 10 oz clams (shells on)
· handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
· extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
First make the picada. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the almonds, bread, and garlic and cook until everything is golden—this will take 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the ingredients from the pan, trying to leave as much oil behind as possible, and then either pound the mixture using a pestle and mortar to make a chunky paste, or process it in a food processor.
Now for the stew. Add the onions to the same pan and saute for about 5 minutes, until soft, before stirring in the chopped tomatoes. Let the juices evaporate a little, then add the chile, bay leaf, and stock. Bring to a boil and add the potato slices and saffron, then let the mixture simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Add the picada and stir well to ensure that it is well mixed into the cooking juices.
Five minutes before serving, add the fish and shellfish. Don't add everything all at once: start with the fish steaks, largest first, then 1 minute later the shrimp, followed by the clams; the latter will take only about a minute to open (discard any that don't).
Serve immediately with a sprinkling of chopped parsley—or fresh cilantro, which is a Portuguese twist—and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.