Mexican Seafood Stew – An impressive, but easy dish for family or company. Make sure you have plenty of bread on hand to sop up the delicious broth!
Stew for me has traditionally been about tender and juicy chunks of beef with hearty vegetables in a beefy broth. Seafood stew is none of those things, but it does include a rich broth that infuses the main ingredients with all the complex flavors that have been blended via slow layered cooking process. Youl’ll love the flavor, the lighter feel and overall multifaceted eating experience of this seafood stew recipe.
What’s In a Seafood Stew?
Trust me when I say I’ve suffered for your benefit and learned through many trials and equal number of errors. I spent many minutes and dollars on different seafood combinations trying to master this recipe. I didn’t land on all the exact ingredients as Salpicon’s recipe which included clams and baby octopus, but I found a combination that works. I leaned mostly on shrimp and mussels, but lobster and clams are great options as well. For fish, I only use firm white-fish like cod or monkfish since they better standup to the stewing process.
It was particularly challenging for me given that I discovered seafood much late in life well into adulthood delaying the development of my seafood palate. “Discovered” is probably the wrong word, as I was aware, but my taste buds never really fully experienced the joy of seafood, only the pain. Prior to moving to Chicago and finding a new allergist I had suffered violent intolerances to fish. Oddly enough most shell fish I was fine with except crab. But it was gill fish – trout, sea bass, salmon, etc. that was off limits. As a kid we had Friday Fish Fries plus Pork Chops. And my MaDear had to always remind me Uncle Slick (king of fried catfish and perch) to use a different grease for the chops.
Uncle Slick was old school and from a different time. In his world food allergies were on the long list of things that could be remedied with a swig of the greatest elixir of all time – Tussin. Though Uncle Slick was gifted on the fryer, MaDear was on full alert during fish fries. They were fun for the family and neighbors but always stressful for her after that one time Uncle Slick slid 3 year old me a catfish sandwich. I don’t recall the incident given my youth, but apparently I did what hungry 3 year old boys do and smashed that sandwich only to experience violent nausea and acute asthma simultaneously.
Initially the family feared demons had taken possession, then it was epilepsy before the nurse neighbor correctly identified the issue and gave me Benadryl until I could get check-out. I’m half kidding about the demons theory, but I’m sure the timing of my baptism was related. In hindsight my question was who feeds a 3 year old an entire fried fish sandwich. I’m sure I probably ate a few fish bones too.
Time heals, and despite my early issues I’ve evolved into a fish snob and even included fish in this iteration of a seafood stew recipe. For years as a teen and early adult the desire for fish was there, despite knowing it would end badly. Now that I’m on the other side of my fish intolerance, I’m all the better for it physically and mentally but there were a few moments of broken clocks.
What makes it a Mexican seafood stew?
This seafood stew differs from most in the use of dried chiles. I used guajillo chiles which are one of the most commonly used in Mexican cuisine. The longer and wider ones are favored for their more pronounced, richer flavor. They’re also low on the heat scale. In this recipe, they are re-hydrated, pureed and used to infuse the stock. The puree adds that coastal Mexico element to the dish and helps elevate it. It also another level of taste complexity while maintaining the simplicity of the dish.
Seafood Stew: Key Tips
This seafood stew recipe is based on my recollection of a dish I had at Chicago Restaurant Salpicon. This recollection is based on multiple orders of the dish as well as what I preserved from conversations with the wait staff. It’s a simple recipe from an ingredients perspective but it does require some discipline in execution. The key is building a quality stock and then following the correct order of cooking the seafood. The former relies on pairing with a dried chile puree/sauce, while for the latter you risk overcooked, chewy ingredients and thus a less than stellar seafood stew.
Can you freeze and re-heat seafood stew?
This is one of those yeah, but responses to this question. I personally prefer to eat my seafood fresh. Leftover seafood is a let down. The biggest issue generally is seafood toughens considerably when re-heated. However, I understand if you don’t want toilet a very good seafood stew go to waste. You have a few options:
- Reserve the liquid and use fresh new seafood
- Warm the soup on the stove at a gentle heat vs. long simmer or boiling to prevent toughening
- Remove the seafood, bring the liquid to a boil and then pour over the seafood
If you make this simple and delicious seafood stew, please 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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For another seafood based stew, try this shrimp stew recipe.
- 1 pound calamari rings
- 1 pound firm white fish
- 2 small lobster tails
- 12 jumbo shrimp shelled and deveined
- 1/2 pound sea scallops
- 12 mussels
- 1 chopped medium red onion
- 1 bunch of cilantro finely chopped
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1/2 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
- bones from white fish
- shrimp and lobster shells
- 1 gallon of water
- 3 medium carrots roughly chopped
- 1 small white onion roughly chopped
- 1 celery rib coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
Guajillo Chile Puree
- 8 dried guajillo chiles seeded and deveined
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup water
Make the Fish Stock
Rinse/clean the fish bones and put in stockpot with all the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer slowly for 30-40 minutes.
Strain the stock and then pour into a smaller pot. Heat this pot on low heat to maintain hot temperature.
Make the Puree
Boil water in the microwave in a large bowl for 2-3 minutes. Add chiles to the water and place a small saucer on top of the chiles to keep them submerged under the water. Let sit for 15-20 minutes until chiles are fully softened.
Drain the chiles and transfer to a blender. Add the garlic and water and puree to make a sauce.
Pour the puree into the stock and simmer for about 15 minutes. I completed this step the night before, seasoned further and then refrigerated to let the flavors come together further. However you can go right to the next step, just make sure you continue simmering so the stock is hot when the stew is ready.
Make the Stew
Transfer about 3 cups of the stock to a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the seasonings and mussels and cook until they open - about 4-5 minutes. Get rid of any mussels that fail to open.
Remove the mussels and place in large serving bowl.
Add the lobster to the pot and simmer until begins turning opaque no more than 5 minutes.
Transfer the lobster to bowl and then cook the shrimp in the stock for 2 minutes. continue cooking but add the scallops for an additional two minutes and the calamari for another minute. Remove all ingredients from the pot and add to the seafood bowl.
Serve fish in individual bowls topping with the hot stock, onions, cilantro, and lime wedges.