Stew Fish made EASY.
I don't know when Brunch became a REAL thing in The Bahamas, but all of a sudden businesses were capitalizing off the persons who treasured day parties and breakfast foods mid day. ALL I know is stew fish became one of those meals that you can not have a Bahamian Brunch without. Truth be told, stew fish is a dish enjoyed at any time of day. For breakfast with grits or Johnny cake; the latter the perfect accompaniment to the savory stew.
So how do you do it? In days of old, some people were annoyed at how long it took to make. Honestly the process of browning flour requires plenty of patience. I remember Ms. Pauline saying she don't want no "burn flour". ROTFL. She was not joking. If you rush the technique, your flour will, in fact, burn and your kitchen will be a hot, smokey mess. So here's how I (ME. EYE.) make my stew. I stress this because someone grammy, mummy, aunty or the random person is going to tell me something without the understanding that we ALL have our ways of doing things and mine een wrong just because it een the same way you did yourns.
So here's my thing. A stew base is standard, brown your flour. EASY. Brown your flour. Wait.
This recipe will serve four people a brunch-sized portion of stew. By brunch sized, I mean enough for you to be satisfied and move on to the next delicious brunch food option. Think 1 fluid cup broth PLUS 2 or 3 pieces of fish and potatoes. PORTION SIZES! This dish has a good balance of protein, but remember the starch comes from the potatoes and the stew broth. Be mindful.
You can also make this stew vegan by using vegetable-based oils in preparation and substituting the fish for jackfruit, coconut meat or any other plant-based substitute. My mom is partial to cabbage, carrots, fried pumpkin and cassava when she's on a meat-less run. The possibilites are truly endless.
But this one here is about the fish!
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fish broth (water will do just fine)
2 cups water
2 pounds seasoned grouper fillet (or grouper pieces)
OR fish of your choice - snapper, turbot, etc. It's up to you.
3 tbsps oil
1 tbsp butter
1 potato evenly cubed
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1 goat pepper
1 tsp thyme (or 1/2 tsp ground thyme)
Cook time: about 45 minutes
If you want to see me do this step-by-step, then head over to my YouTube Channel and watch the video!
If you prefer to read, well, here ya go!
In your frying pan, heat the butter, then add the potatoes, a pinch (literally) of salt and the garlic powder. Fry the potatoes until they're almost completely translucent but firm. Remove them from the pan and set them aside. In the same pan, fry the onions until they're almost translucent, then add the tomatoes and thyme. Let them simmer until the tomatoes begin to fall apart, then remove them from the pan and set aside.
Now, add the oil to the pan. Sear the fish pieces on both sides and set them aside. Reserve two tablespoons of the oil and set aside.
Heat your soup pot. Place the flour in the bottom of the pot. It's important that you don't get distracted and that the pot isn't too hot. YES, there should be no oil in the pot. Essentially, what we're going to be doing is TOASTING the flour. This will take a while. Ten minutes of toasting and stirring should give you a rich brown flour base. The longer you toast the flour, the darker the stew will be.
Turn your stove off. YES. Again, I ga need the grammies dem to leave me alone. There's a method to my madness. I remember getting panicked when adding broth to my stew because the stew would keep bubbling and it was like I couldn't add the liquid fast enough. Add to that the plume of steam directly in your face and you can imagine why I would prefer to just make boiled fish. Anyway. I found that turning the stove off and waiting a minute or two was so much easier.
Take your broth (or water) and slowly pour it into the pot, carefully whisking so that the mixture is smooth. Either way, as you add the liquid you'll notice that the flour will absorb the liquid and as they combine, it will thicken. Just a note: if you're using water, I've seen people add vegetable or chicken bouillion cubes to the pot to add flavor. Most times the fried fish oil should do just fine. If you're using water, add salt lightly. If you're using broth or bouillion cubes, don't add salt. Here's a plug for Chef Simeon Brendford Hall who stands by creating your own fish broth for stew fish. He een lie. Check out his page for more recipes.
Turn your stove back on low heat and watch it simmer. Then add your garlic potatoes, onions and tomatoes. You may want to add a little more water depending on the consistency of the broth. I like my stew with some body, but not thick.
Gently rest your panfried fish pieces in the gravy along with the reserved 2 tablespoons of oil. The oil will further thicken your gravy without it being oily. This is where you taste your stew to adjust the salt or flavor. Keep in mind that the fish had been marinated with salt, the broth has salt and the potatoes have salt. The last thing you want to do is oversalt your pot. If you're fine with the flavor, do no more, but if you really want to amp things up, add your fresh thyme and goat pepper to the pot.
Remove the bayleaf from the pot and serve with your choice of Johnny cake, or yellow grits or both. If you want the perfect Johnny Cake recipe, check out Macarra's here. I use half the sugar in the recipe but MY goodness, it taste good.
I hope you enjoy!