Saturday, February 7, 2009

Recipe for Seafood and Vegetable Stew with Rouille (Red Pepper Sauce)

Fish Stew with Vegetables and RouilleFish and Vegetable Stew with Rouille

The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.
John Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du Gout (Physiology of Taste) (1825)

Where do recipes come from? Family, community, tradition, and serendipitous accident are easy but incomplete answers.

The primary source of recipes has always been an individual cook’s imagination and palate. Over time, original recipes are modified by other cooks’ imaginations and adjusted by yet more cooks’ palates, to infinity and without limitation.

The food articles I enjoy most are ones that explain how a dish was developed or why a cook chose to combine certain flavors. Although its authors’ cooking styles and skills are quite different from my own, Ideas in Food is one of my favorite blogs. It focuses on the techniques and thought processes that go into creating unique flavor combinations.

I recently made Seafood and Vegetable Stew with Rouille. Here's how it came into being:

My kitchen counter was overflowing with
garnet yams, bounty from more than one Full Circle Farms CSA box. I wanted to do something other than oven-roasting the yams or making oven fries. Looking for inspiration, I randomly pulled cookbooks off the shelves.

Barbara Kafka’s book
Soup: A Way of Life had an interesting recipe for Fall Fish Stew that included sweet potatoes. I decided to try it.

My first version of the stew was similar to Kafka’s, though I substituted sautéed sweet potatoes for boiled and edamame beans for limas. After tasting the broth, I wanted more flavor.

In my next version, I added sautéed onions and red bell peppers, and used a different Rouille recipe than Kafka’s. I seasoned the Rouille with dried, ground red Moroccan pepper (poivron rouge). This version was tasty, but I thought it could be better.

In my final version, I added crushed fennel seeds and shelled shrimp. This combination was exactly what I wanted. Although inspired by Kafka, the final stew is uniquely my own.

Map of High Atlas MountainsI internet-ordered poivron rouge from World Spice Merchants in Seattle, one of my favorite herb and spice purveyors. World Spice describes poivron rouge as “sweet red pepper … produced from sweet round red niora peppers grown in the lush valleys at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains to the northeast of Marrakech.“

Poivron Rouge and PaprikaPoivron Rouge and Sweet Hungarian Paprika

Although Moroccan recipes often call for paprika, niora peppers are what Moroccans use for “paprika.” The flavor of ground niora differs significantly from sweet Hungarian paprika. Niora is spicier and has a fruitier flavor than its Hungarian counterpart, which has a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Moroccan niora peppers are likely the same as the ñora peppers used in
Romesco sauce and other Spanish and Catalonian dishes. In addition to having similar names, nioras and ñoras look the same. Most texts refer to nioras and ñoras only as members of the Capsicum annuum family; in other words, as domesticated peppers. However, in Catalan Cuisine, Colman Andrews says pepper scholar Charles Perry “thinks the nyora [ñora] pepper is the variety scientifically called Capsicum annuum grossum/provar. Pomiforme/sub-var. Conc. Humilirotundum Haz."

No matter what its scientific designation might be, poivron rouge has wonderful flavor and a permanent place in my spice cupboard. Its mildly spicy and fruity tastes make distinctively delicious Rouille and a mouth-wateringly good Seafood and Vegetable Stew.

Seafood Stew with Vegetables and RouilleSeafood and Vegetable Stew with Rouille (Red Pepper Sauce)
Serves 4
The stew may also be made with just fish or just shrimp; if so, use 1 pound of either ingredient. Although not necessary, steamed rice is a nice complement to the spicy, aromatic broth. Serve the rice on the side so eaters can stir the amount they desire into the stew.

1 cup peeled, diced garnet yams or sweet potatoes, 1/2” dice (1 garnet yam)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced red bell pepper, 1/2” dice (1-2 peppers)
1 cup diced yellow onion, 1/2” dice
1 tsp. freshly crushed fennel seed
4 cups fish stock or clam broth (nectar)
1 recipe Rouille (see below)
1 cup shelled edamame beans (thawed) or fresh fava beans
1/2 pound skinless fillets of halibut, rockfish, cod, or other white-fleshed fish, cut in 3/4” pieces
1/2 pound shelled and cleaned shrimp,
16-20 count, halved crosswise
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)

Minced parsley for garnish

Sauté the garnet yams in olive oil, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, until they start to brown around the edges. Stir in the red bell peppers and onions, and continue to sauté until the onions soften. Add the crushed fennel seed and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the fish stock, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. (The recipe may be made ahead to this point.)

In a small bowl, whisk one cup of the hot broth into the Rouille. Stir this mixture into the simmering stew pot, along with the edamame beans, fish, and shrimp. Do not let boil or the Rouille may curdle. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until the seafood is cooked through. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste and add salt or lemon juice, as needed.

Sprinkle with minced parsley and serve immediately with steamed rice and wedges of lemon.

Recipe adapted from
In the Hands of a Chef by Jody Adams
Rouille goes well with all fish, and is a tasty addition to fish salads. The recipe may be doubled or tripled and keeps for a week in the refrigerator.

1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp.
poivron rouge or sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Put the egg yolk, mustard, and lemon juice in a blender and mix well. While the blender is running, add the vegetable oil drop by drop so that it emulsifies with the other ingredients. While the blender is running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until the Rouille is very smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
This is my recipe for
Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Dee from The Daily Tiffin.


Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

I have to say I love the soup and the way you came about it. Let me also say, I'm very glad you covered this whole concept of "recipe development" in the first paragraph. It has been a point of contention with me lately. Some people are too stuck on traditional methods to even "think outside the square". To me, that's what cooking is all about...experimenting, testing, tweaking etc...until you reach your desired taste. well said Laurie...I have enormous respect for you and your philosophy.

Maria Verivaki said...

i think i'm in love with the peppers and the colour of the broth, plus the little spots of contrast in it - really memerising

i especially like the use of maps in posts - a bit of armchair travel for those of us who can't move around much these days (and we're staying steadfastly indoors at this moment because the deserts in your map have created dust storms that have now arrived in crete, bringing 'red rain' with them)

FOODalogue said...

No matter what route you took to get to the end result, it looks like a success! So colorful and silky looking.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I loved reading the story behind your recipe. Food can sometimes be considered an art form and not just an everyday occurance we take for granted.

Sophie Sportende Foodie said...

That fish soup, aka stew looks so appetizing, yum yum,... It seems like a lot of hard work!!!

Peter M said...

Laurie, welcome back and you're back with a winner here. I love using my smoked paprika and the one I use (from the parents horio) has the same colour as the the photo in the right.

The soup is refined; like a creamy Bisque and the shrimp are the jewels here.

I like your approach to a dish, also seeking to improve the taste, look, texture. It's good, it's supposed to be pragmatic and we adore Greek food.

The Mussolini approach in the kitchen is so 1945! ;)

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Your creation looks absolutely delicious. Red peppers always add a wonderful taste to food. I love using them, although I don't think I have used this particular one before in my cooking.

It's great that you spent the time to get the exact taste you wanted. I admire the effort and the result!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your version of the recipe. It looks and sounds so good, and I'm always looking for new ways to use all of our halibut and shrimp. I'll have to try this one soon.

Anonymous said...

Whoa -- this is a pepper that's totally new to me. Will have to track some down, and try this soup, which looks and sounds delicious (and the color -- fantastic!). Thanks for introducing me to a new ingredient!

eatingclubvancouver_js said...

Thanks for the info about the peppers. There are so many different kinds and they all have different flavours.

The soup looks heavenly!

Anonymous said...

Looks delicious, Laurie. :-) Say, is clam nectar the same thing as bottled clam juice? And if not, do you have any thoughts on the substitution thereof?

Laurie Constantino said...

Thank you Peter. Experimenting, testing, and tweaking is what makes cooking worthwhile.

Maria, that red rain is no fun, plus it's bad for both Africa and Europe. As for maps, they are endlessly entertaining and, as you recently pointed out, are rich with cultural history.

Joan, thank you!

Val, I couldn't stand to cook every day if I couldn't use my creative energy on it.

Sophie, actually this recipe is really easy and goes together quickly. A blender makes quick work of the Rouille and none of the ingredients need to be long-cooked.

Peter, quit torturing me by bringing up that smoked paprika. As for the Mussolini approach, not in my kitchen! (or yours either)

Nihal, as for testing and tasting, you just did the same thing with your orange cake to great success!

Cindy, Alaskans are really spoiled when it comes to seafood, aren't we?

Lydia - an ingredient you've never heard of?????? Well, that just made my day!

JS, yes, one of the reasons I like peppers is their wide range of complex flavors. Glad you liked the soup!

Lulu, yes, clam nectar is the same thing as bottled clam juice. And, even though it wouldn't be my first choice, I've been known to use Better than Bouillon's Clam Base in dishes like this. If you do use Better than Bouillon, it's salty, so limit adding salt until the dish is done. That way you can taste to see if any additional is needed.

Kalyn Denny said...

This sounds like a fabulous dish. Wish I could come for a visit and try some!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Laurie!
Thank God, we can enjoy a fascinating world where recipes and culinary methods change, not at every national frontier, but from one home to another.
Your soup looks so delicious!! :)

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Laurie,
What a beautiful meal you present. I think one of the reasons I don't bake is because I too love to "play with my ingredients."

Just ordering from World Spice opens the doors to new sensations. (One of my favorites also:) I can sense the addition of the fennel seeds in your hearty stew. A perfect tweak:)

Thank you so much for sharing...

Joanne said...

hello Laurie! This soup looks and sounds delicious! It has a lot of the foods/flavours I enjoy: shrimp, paprika, yams, red peppers and also Moroccan flavours. I need to have a look a that website, World Spice Merchants, I already have a large collection of spices and pastes as it is, but I could stand to use a few more unique ones. Nothing wrong with that, right? :)

Maria said...

That sounds simply delicious Laurie. And you're right, those posts that shed light on how a recipe came about for a specific cook are the most interesting to me as well.

Christina said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I will have to check out your blog and your loving recipes!!!

Antonio Tahhan said...

looks like a wonderful stew perfect for the last few wintery days left this season :)

Anonymous said...

Not only does your soup look so gorgeous but very appetizing - delicious. I'm going to make this for my little girl. She loves soup.

Núria said...

You are such a sweet heart Laurie!!! Thanks for the mention on the Romesco sauce :D

I couldn't agree with you more: cuisine is always improving and changing... recipes are rewriten every day. As long as the result is good and tasty, then it's ok! I hate narrow minded people!

Your soup would manage to make all my family happy... during the whole week! So rich and flavourful!!! I would love to try your unique and fantastic culinary invention ;D

Thanks for commenting in so many old posts in my blog darling!

Laurie Constantino said...

Kalyn, how grand it would be if you could come for a visit!

Thanks, Mariana. You are so right!

Louise, I'm glad not to be the only one who likes to play with food.

Bijoux!!! The more ingredients the better - that's what I say anyway. Then again, I'm an ingredient hoarder so maybe not the best example.

Maria, thank you!

Christina, thanks for stopping by!

Tony, as for that "last few wintery days left" concept, for Alaskans its more like months rather than days. Not that I mind!

Ninja, if you make this, I sure hope your little girl likes it!

Nuria, exactly - good taste and should be the measure of all food - the narrow-minded among us miss out on some very delicious treats. As for commenting, I do read all your excellent posts dear, though sometimes it takes me a long while!

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, can't go wrong with fennel and seafood -- perfect addition to your creation! Great use of sweet potatoes and seafood, too. Love the info on the peppers, esp the side-by-side photos. Is "poivron rouge" the same as Turkish "pul biber"? Can't wait to try your rouille.

farmfreshmiami said...

This seafood stew is equal parts delicious and interesting. A few changes I made to the original posted above... for the rouille, I had just regular sweet paprika and felt that I might not have gotten enough of the right flavor so I added a few roasted sweet red peppers to the fresh peppers in the stew. Also, I had mixed-colored, sweet mini peppers (red, orange and yellow) instead of just red. Finally, and this is (in my opinion) the only real adjustment worth making, I like to put both lemon zest and whole, wide slices of lemon right into the stew and let them cook along with the other ingredients. I fish them out before serving but think they add a really lovely, bright lemon flavor. Finally, I had some Thai coconut meat (I love to drink the water inside) so I made a fresh coconut rice and served it alongside this stew (on the side for those that wanted to eat is separately.) Fresh coconut is very lightly fragrant, unlike the canned stuff, and Thai coconut is very nutty and delicious.

fried soft shell crab said...

This recipe looks delicious. The pictures make my mouth water just looking at them. I can't wait to try this one out with my husband and kids. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe