Thursday, June 29, 2017

Annie's Moqueca...

This week we traveled with Finn to watch him play in the IL-ODP regional combine in Indiana. That meant we were able to stay with my cousin Annie, her husband and their 3 dogs in their sweet Fountain Square home. We had such a nice visit and Annie whipped up a batch a Moqueca for dinner.  The Brazilian dish came as a total surprise to me and it was 100% delicious.  I created my own version for a recent column and really enjoyed making it an eating it!

COUSIN INSPIRED MOQUECA

Shortly after she finished college and prepared to take her place in the professional world, I advised my favorite cousin, Annie,  to keep a bottle of wine, bunch of grapes, and a wedge of fine cheese on hand at all times. She looked at me quizzically after I offered such simplistic advice, but I promised keeping a few grown-up goodies around her first apartment would make her feel better on bad days and ensure she was celebration ready on the good ones. Let’s face it, growing up is hard work and trading in your ramen packets for a wedge of aged gouda is a delicious “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy for feeling like an adult.

An occasional sip of wine and nibble of fresh fruit helped Annie over the years and thanks to her admirable work ethic she’s had more good days than bad ones. As a result, she grew 
into a fiercely successful young woman.

Once she had embraced her own adulthood, I offered up my second piece of advice: Have a signature dish. Annie doesn’t fancy herself a cook, but I helped her see the importance of having at least one dinner party worthy dish in her arsenal. I reminded her horking down hummus and pita for dinner on random Tuesday night is totally fine, but knowing you never need to panic when friends, family or business associates are coming to over for dinner is liberating in the best way.

I’ve always believed a signature dish should be unexpected, but reflective of your own personal narrative. Over the years Annie’s professional path has taken her all over the world and on a serendipitous night while working in Chile she ordered a Brazilian dish called Moqueca; the rest is history. She taught herself how to make Moqueca and churns it out like an absolute pro.

Last week-end we visited Annie and her husband in their first house and she served me her signature dish. Mocqueca, a hearty fish stew, is deceptively complex in flavor and fairly simple to prepare. Tender flakes of white fish and large shrimp gently cook in a savory broth made from tomatoes and coconut milk before being served over a bed of rice. It is a colorful dish filled 
with memorable flavors.

I will always remember eating Annie’s version of Moqueca; she prepared the dish confidently, but nostalgia made the meal even more delicious. As I scraped the bottom of my bowl and savored the crisp white wine she served alongside it, I realized Annie had grown up before my eyes. With hard work, self-love, and the occasional fine cheese binge she managed to create a gorgeous adult life as vibrant as her signature dish.
(makes 6 Servings)

Moqueca
1 pound Cod Fillet, skinned and cut into 6 large chunks
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2 limes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Red pepper, diced small
1 yellow pepper, diced small
1 Yellow onion, diced small
Salt and Pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon chili flakes (more-or-less to taste)
1 large bay leaf
1 large basil sprig
1 green plantain, peeled and diced
1 14-ounce can fire roasted Tomatoes, undrained
1 14 ounce can unsweetened coconut Milk
½ -1 Cup low sodium chicken broth or water
3 scallions, chopped
1 Pound (16-20 count) shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
¼ Cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lime scented rice-recipe follows
Garnishes: Sliced serrano chilies, fresh chopped chives, fresh basil chiffonade, toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, Lime wedges.
About 1 hour before cooking dinner, place the cod portions in a shallow dish.  Sprinkle with the lime zest, lime juice and garlic. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup/stock pot over medium-high heat and add the peppers and onions to the pot and season well with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the vegetables, stirring frequently, until tender, but not brown-about 10 minutes.  Add the paprika, chili flakes, bay leaf, basil sprig, diced plantain, tomatoes and coconut milk to the pan.  Mix well and season with salt and pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Remove the marinated fish from the refrigerator. Add ½ Cup of the chicken broth and scallions  to the pot and mix well. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place the fish (and all accumulated juices) to the simmering broth. Cover and allow the fish to cook for 6 minutes. Don’t boil the fish or it will fall apart.
Add the shrimp to the stew and stir gently.  If the mixture seems a little too thick add up to ½ cup more broth to the pot. Cover and allow the shrimp to simmer in the broth for 6 minutes. Check for doneness: cod should flake easily with a fork and shrimp should be opaque. Remove the moqueca from the heat and gently fold in the cilantro.
Serve the moqueca over lime scented rice in bowls garnished liberally with chilies, chives, basil, toasted coconut and a squeeze of lime.

Lime Scented Rice
1 ½ Cups long grain rice
3 Cups cold water
1 Tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon lime zest

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the rice stand, covered, for about 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving with the moqueca.

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