Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Saffron Fish Stew

Bowl of Stew
Saffron Adds  Golden Magic to Broth & Potatoes

Recipe adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar

Hot fish stews and chilly winter nights, a match made in heaven for seaside dwellers? I’ve been planning to make traditional Provincetown Fish Chowder all month, but got hung up on the salt pork. My grandmother always kept it on hand during New England winters. But where to find it in Santa Cruz these days? What is it, exactly, for that matter? Luckily, our local library houses a copy of the quintessential winter cookbook, Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables. In it, there’s an unusual fish stew recipe. No salt pork, but enough saffron threads to make a subtle yet exotic golden broth.

Potatoes, Leeks, and Carrots in Pot
Veggies Before Adding Broth
In the original recipe, peeled potatoes and carrots are simmered until very soft (40 minutes), then mashed up to thicken soup before the fish is added. My version is a chunkier soup, simmered for just 20 minutes. As usual, I skipped the peeling. If you can’t find red potatoes, use any thin-skinned variety. Whole fingerlings would be delicious, and cut the cooking time down even more.

Raw Fish added to Cooked Veggies and Broth
Add Fish and Simmer
I added extra broth and wine to the original recipe so that there was enough liquid to submerge the fish, and I increased the amount of saffron proportionately to keep the color golden. “Chicken-like” powdered vegetarian broth is inexpensive and ties together the flavors of fish and veggies nicely when reconstituted with water. With the right broth, you won’t need any salt, though you can add some at the end of the cooking time if needed.  

BTW, if you know of a source for salt pork, please leave a comment or email me. Thanks!

Golden Stew in bowl with Parsley Sprigs
Fresh Garnish: Italian Parsley
Saffron Fish Stew
serves 6

6 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 cup dry white wine
½ tsp. saffron threads
1 tbsp. sunflower or organic canola oil
2 leeks, ~ 9.5 oz. total
2 large carrots, ~9.5 oz. total
1½ lbs. red potatoes
1½ lbs. thick white fish, such as arctic char
Fresh ground black pepper
Salt, if needed
Fresh parsley, optional garnish

Combine broth, wine, and saffron threads in a saucepan. Bring to boil, then let simmer while you prepare the vegetables.

Clean and trim the leeks, and slice white and light green parts into ¼-inch rounds. You will have about 1 cup.

Scrub carrots and chop into 1-inch chunks. Scrub potatoes and remove spots, but don’t peel. Dice into chunks about 1 inch in size.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks and sauté until limp, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Do not brown.

Add potatoes, carrots, and broth mixture to leeks. Cover and simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut fish into approximately 1½ -inch chunks.

Add fish chunks to broth, stirring to submerge them. Bring liquid to simmer and cook until fish is tender, about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh parsley and a grind or two of black pepper. 

Basket of Red Potatoes, Carrots, Leeks, and Saffron
Simple Winter Veggies Plus Saffron

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