21 October 2009

Group dinners - Moqueca de peixe

So, blog readers (I'm going to pretend there are some out there. humor me), I have to let you in on a few tidbits about myself, and a secret. I swear, this'll be quick.

First off, I grew up with boys. Outside of two female cousins I saw quite frequently, the majority of my childhood was spent trying to fit in with my older brothers friends, and wondering why I didn't seem to be able to tolerate female nonsense. It took me years to accept that, treasure the select gal friends I had, and give up on the rest. :)

As a result, it's safe to say that about 75 - 80 percent of my close friends are men. No shocker there.

With that out of the way, on to the secret part. Not-so-secret part, we're busy people, between work, vacations, travel etc., it's often hard to get the same people in one room to catch up. My group of pals in Boston do this usually through some sort of orchestrated potluck or group dinner (once had a skirmish with a friend over negative connotations for the word "potluck". oy). And the secret here ... the majority of the guys out here are not only skilled engineers (I work at MIT) but incredible cooks.

I kid you not.

(photos compliments of mrwalter)

This past August called for one of these dinners, hosted at my place. I set out to make Moqueca de Peixe, a Brazilian fish stew, with saffron rice, and just for fun, some margarita cupcakes for dessert (recipe here). The moqueca couldn't be easier, as long as you have the special ingredient (dende oil, available in Latin markets) and we were good to go.

Also on the table was a barley mushroom risotto from Abe, a grapefruit and avocado salad from our french delegate Olivier :), a sweet corn + black beans + tomato salad from Matt, some guacamole from Sam and a number of desserts from Rick. In the past, they've brought whole roasts, fruit tarts made from scratch, pumpkin cobbler that was to die for, and the list goes on. We like good eats, what can I say.

All in all, one of my favorite way to catch up with people I love. Hands down.

With the story out of the way, on to the moqueca, which I highly recommend you try when you have a crowd to entertain.

Moqueca de Peixe (Brazilian fish stew)

Quantities in the recipe are relative, do what seems best for your pot. It's all about the layering in this one.

Serves 6-8 hungry men.

1.25 - 1.5 lbs of firm white fish and other seafood (I used swordfish tips, striped bass, and a few peeled jumbo shrimp at the end)
4 large tomatoes
2-3 peppers (I used red and orange)
A large onion, 2 if needed
Lime juice
Minced garlic (3 cloves or so)
2.5 cups coconut milk
3 TB dende oil
Salt and pepper
Spring onions
chilies, either diced, or use chile oil / hot sauce (I used chile oils from recent trip to Brazil)

Cut the fish into bite size pieces and place in a bag. Add the lime juice, salt, ground pepper, and minced garlic. Marinate fish 30 minutes to 2 hours (be careful it doesn't cook ceviche style).

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in heavy bottom pan. I used my pasta pot, which worked perfectly. Cut the vegetables into rings and layer half of them, peppers, tomatoes, onions, then some salt and pepper.

Add a layer of fish with the marinade (omitting the shrimp, since that cooks quickly, we can add that at the end).

Layer the vegetables again.

Meanwhile mix together the coconut milk, dende oil (it should be a nice reddish color), and chilies / chile oil. Pour over the vegetables and fish. I needed slightly more than 1 can of coconut milk, but you may not. The mixture cooks down, but you still want it to be stew-like.

Bring mixture to a boil, and simmer gently, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove cover and simmer for 25 minutes more, or until vegetables are well-cooked and tender. If you're adding shrimp, add in the last 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with chopped scallions before serving. Serve with rice (in my case saffron rice), fried plantains or whatever else you'd like as trimmings... like margarita cupcakes. Hell, why not?

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