Cazuela de Mariscos aka Cartagenan Seafood Stew is a rich, delicious and creamy seafood stew that is quick to cook, but perfect for weekend entertaining.
Recipe Inspiration and Background
This seafood stew was actually inspired by the Cartagenan Seafood Chowder I had at Alma’s Restaurant & Bar in Cartagena during a recent trip my and I took. If you find yourself in Cartagena, this place is a must stop and the dish is a must-have. It was our last meal in Cartagena literally as we took a taxi straight from the restaurant to the airport. The chowder was rich, creamy, and filling.
We had many seafood dishes during our time in Cartagena, but my favorite was the Cazuela de Mariscos. It was absolutely delicious! So much that I let each spoonful sit on my tongue for a minute or two so that I could attempt to deconstruct the recipe and figure out the essential ingredients, because surely I’d be making it at home in my kitchen.
The broth was ridiculously amazing. Between my wife and I, we identified the broth as a mixture of coconut milk, butter, cream, fresh parsley, and some acidity which we were able to confirm with our waiter as a white wine. This dish/restaurant marked the culmination of a great trip both culturally and from a culinary perspective.
When we took a taxi from the Bogota airport down to the city, the driver was deep into Willie Gonzalez’ classic cut “Quiero Morir En Tu Piel.” My man was singing as if we weren’t even present. I wasn’t mad at him, as it set the tone for a great trip.
Most people don’t associate Colombia with the African Diaspora. Outside of Brazil, I’m not sure how much people know about other South American countries impacted by the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Colombia has a strong presence of African descendants and a vibrant culture.
Beyond our normal travel interests, this aspect was a big driver in our first ever trip to Colombia. For me, it’s always important to have a real connection to the people and culture when I’m trying to recreate and/or produce truly authentic ethnic cuisine. I try and research as much as possible. The most recent examples are the Haitian Joumou Soup and the Puerto Rican Mofongo Relleno from previous posts.
We hit Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena in succession over a five-day stretch, basically hitting the ground running as soon as we landed in Bogota amazing race style. We landed in Bogota in the morning and went directly to the town center for street food, site seeing, and the small restaurant La Puerta Falsa, which I describe as small, humble and extraordinary. It’s a must-stop in Bogota for authentic, Colombian comfort food. Definitely try the Colombian Chicken & Potato Soup and the tamales. We also caught some great street artists performing Michael Jackson dance moves and listened to open mic poets outside in a small square.
Then it was back to the airport for a short flight to Medellin which is an amazing city. We did a walking street tour of the city which had several highlights including observing some amazing art that told the story of the African citizens who had come to Colombia via the slave trade. There was also more amazing street food including the lime-scented fresh potato chips and both synchronized and freestyle break dancing. We also managed to run into The Points Guy who runs a great blog and is all over social media providing expertise on using points to travel at big discounts.
We spent the remaining few days in Cartagena mostly relaxing. Cartagena sits on the Atlantic ocean so has more of a Caribbean vibe to it. There is, in fact, a huge Cuban presence in terms of food and culture. Cartagena is like Miami meets New Orleans. The beaches definitely have a Miami vibe and attract an international crowd, while the old walled city has small, narrow streets and old buildings with shops, bars, and restaurants perfect for walking, people watching and just having a good time.
Though we were only in Cartagena a few days, we managed to walk and eat our way through it. A few food spots I’d recommend include:
La Cevicheria – RSVP as this spot was on Anthony Bourdain’s TV Show “Parts Unknown”
Cuba 1940 – fun fun fun Cuban spot with live music nightly
Demente – late-night tapas
As a side note, if you’re targeting Cuban cigars in Colombia beware there are many places that sell fake ones. The best place to buy cigars, especially legit Cubans is La Cava Del Puro. Prices are reasonable, service is great, and they’ll pour you a nice shot or two of really good rum! It’s small and nondescript, but both Presidents Clinton and Obama managed to find it.
Can Cazuela de Mariscos be reheated?
Yes, seafood stew can be reheated. However, let me just say just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done. I’ve yet to find re-heating seafood working out well for me in any form except gumbo. If you’re asking me, don’t do it!
Which seafoods are good for seafood stew?
Most seafood works in this dish, but some work much better than others. Clams, mussels, shrimp, lobster, squid are very safe and highly recommended. They all add flavor, character, and texture. Fish is tricky. I prefer meaty white fish like grouper, snapper, or swordfish. Not only do they hold texture, but they also make this a very satisfying dish.
What wine goes with seafood stew?
Lighter wines with subtle sweetness are preferred. Definitely go white wines like a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. I personally prefer sauvignon blanc. Rieslings, Voignoirs, Moscatos are all too sweet. The coconut milk and cream provide all the sweetness you’ll need.
Cazuela de Mariscos Cooking Tips
- Use fresh seafood
- Clean your seafood thoroughly before cooking
- Get rid of any clams that don’t open during cooking
- Don’t add fresh herbs too early. The color will dull dramatically and flavor will become bitter.
- Season more if needed before serving
- Serve hot.
Making Cartagenan Seafood Stew
If you make this version of Cazuela de Mariscos come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.
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- 1 tbsp butter (unsalted)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup bell peppers chopped (use mix of colors)
- 1 cup red onion diced
- 1 medium carrot peeled and diced
- 1 celery stalk chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1/2 tbsp sea salt
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 13.5 oz coconut milk (canned)
- 1/2 cup white wine Sauvignon Blanc
- 1/2 cup fish stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pound jumbo shrimp peeled and deveined
- 16 littleneck clams scrubbed
- 2 pounds white fish cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley chopped
- Thoroughly clean all seafood. For the clams soak them in water 10-15 minutes then brush them to make sure any sand and saltwater flavor is gone.
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the olive oil and butter.
- Add the onions, peppers, garlic, celery and carrots and sauté, until tender (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add spices for the last two minutes.
- Add the bay leaves, cream, fish stock, coconut milk; bring to a boil.
- Add all the seafood and cover, reducing heat to a simmer and cook about 2-3 minutes until clams open. Remove from heat and discard any unopened shells.
- Add the wine and tomato paste, mix well, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro and parsley and serve hot