For Father’s Day I made Josue his favorite dish, moqueca, a Brazilian seafood stew. He grew up on the coastline of northeastern Brazil in the state of Bahia, where seafood is always on the menu. Even though I grew up on the coastline of Lake Michigan, we didn’t eat that much fish growing up. I’ve acquired more of a taste for it as an adult, but I still wouldn’t call it my favorite food. HOWEVER…I love moqueca!
Josue’s mom makes a mean moqueca, so here’s my version of her recipe–just in time for the World Cup! It’s a pretty quick and easy dish to make. The only drawback is that it calls for dendê oil, a red palm oil, which we bring with us from Brazil. I don’t think there are any good substitutes for it. You could make it without it, and it would probably still be good, but it wouldn’t be a true Bahian moqueca. If you want to try it, you’ll have to come over for dinner. I’m sure Josue won’t mind!
– 1 1/2 pounds white fish, thawed*
– 2 pounds deveined, uncooked shrimp, thawed*
– Kosher salt
– 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 large yellow onions, sliced in rings
– 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced in rings
– 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced in rings
– 2 medium tomatoes.
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 3 to 4 tablespoons dendê oil
– 14-ounce can coconut milk
– 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
– 1 1/2 cups dry white rice, prepared (for serving)
*A note about the fish and shrimp: I usually use tilapia because it’s easy to find in land-locked Oklahoma, but I’ve seen several recipes that call for cod. I think the cod would stand up better to cooking; the tilapia has a tendency to break apart, but you can really use any variety of white fish. Also, I use large shrimp with the shells still on. My husband says that the shells, though a pain to take off while you’re eating, help trap the flavor of the dendê oil in the shrimp.
Place the fish and shrimp in a large dish. Sprinkle the shrimp and both sides of the fish fillets liberally with salt; pour in the vinegar and add the minced garlic. Mix gently to coat the fish and shrimp. Place the dish in the refrigerator and allow it to marinate for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the onions thin (about 3/8-inch-thick) rings. (Don’t break the rings apart.) Remove the stem and seeds from the bell peppers and slice them into 3/8-inch-thick rings. Chop the tomatoes into 1/3- to 1/2-inch pieces.
Add the olive oil to a large, heavy skillet (I used a 12-inch iron skillet) and swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Place the onions on the bottom of the pan, next to one another, so that the bottom of the pan is covered with the slices of onions. Layer on the fish, the bell peppers and the chopped tomatoes. Place a lid on the skillet and cook over medium-low or medium for about 10 minutes, or until the fish is almost cooked. Add the shrimp, place the lid back on, and continue cooking for 4 or 5 more minutes, until the shrimp is cooked. Add the coconut milk and the dende oil. Allow the stew to simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes. Add additional salt to taste. Sprinkle with the cilantro.
We eat moqueca over white rice, topped with farofa. Farofa is made of farinha de manioca, a coarse meal made from manioc (tapioca) root. The farinha is toasted in a skillet (I usually add salt and diced onions to mine). Eating it with moqueca helps to soak up the liquid from the stew.