A trip to a Portuguese fish market is staggering. Fish of all colors, shapes and sizes nestle up to shrimp the size of my hand, barnacles (called percebes) that taste so intensely and purely of the sea, and all manners of octopus, squid and cuttlefish. If you are visiting Portugal and don’t have the opportunity to cook, it is still worthwhile to visit the fish market.
Here is a recipe for those days when you’re back home dreaming of your Portuguese adventure. Caldeirada is a Portuguese fish stew that consists of a variety of fish, potatoes, vegetables and seasoning. It varies from place to place and depends on what fish is best in the market. However, it almost always contains a mix of lean and oily fish, and sometimes shellfish. In most markets in Portugal, you can buy an assortment of fish that is already cut and mixed for caldeirada. We usually scope out which vendor has the best looking mix, gather our vegetables and head home. From start to finish, this is a dish that takes very little effort and pays off in a big way.
The mix that we typically buy in Portugal includes conger eel, ray, and monkfish. In the States, I would recommend using two kinds of oily fish, such as tuna, mackerel or swordfish and two kinds of lean fish. Cod, monkfish and flounder would all work. If you shop in a store where they sell whole fish, ask for the fish to be cleaned, scaled and cut into pieces. Otherwise buy filets and cut into pieces yourself.
2 yellow onions, sliced in half-moon shapes
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red pepper, seeds removed, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, seeds removed, roughly chopped
8 medium potatoes, sliced into rounds
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 pounds fresh fish, cut in 2 inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T paprika
½ t piri piri or Tabasco (optional)
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
Half a bottle of white wine
In a deep pan with a lid, or a dutch oven, layer the ingredients as follows:
Half of the potatoes
Half of the onions and garlic
Half of the fish
Half of the green and red peppers
Half of the chopped tomatoes
Repeat the same order, ending with the tomatoes.
Add the bay leaves and sprinkle with the paprika and the piri piri (if using)
Season with salt and pepper to taste
Pour the wine over the layers and put the lid on.
Cook over low heat for approximately 30 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.
Present in the pan at the table, removing the lid and releasing the aroma of the sea! Serve with crusty bread, a bowl of local olives and a glass of white wine. Bom appetito!