This Catalan Cod Stew sums up everything that is so good about the Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean cooking is best when kept simple. Fresh produce, olive oil, and good vinegar are often all you need. This stew has all of those and it’s certainly delicious. For me, it’s the very definition of healthy eating.
Catalan Cod Stew
I went with a red theme in the recipe you see here: tomatoes and red bell peppers. The crimson hue of the Catalan pimentón powder (a crucial ingredient, see below) was just too inspiring. But this dish can be ad-libbed with any of the rich colors of Spanish produce: peppers, aubergines, artichokes, leeks, onions, olives, and garlic. Just reading a list of Mediterranean staples makes me feel instantly hungry. Oh yeah, and in this case, fish is a must. Fresh cod cooked just right is pretty hard to beat.
In Spain, one of those staples is pimentón powder. Pimentón is gorgeous stuff – a classic Spanish spice made by grinding dried red peppers into a fine powder. You could say that it’s the same thing as paprika, which is an easy substitute in this recipe, but pimentón is technically different. It is always smoked and it is always from Spain. The defining characteristic of pimentón is its distinctive oaky smokiness. It’s often labeled: picante (hot), agrodulce (bittersweet), or dulce (sweet). There’s a whole heaping teaspoon of smoky pimentón in this stew so I think dulce is the best choice next to the delicate flavor of cod.
Some Cooking Notes
I also think there’s a little trick to getting this stew just right. And that is to keep your veggies chunky. That means thoroughly cooking them before you add the fish to the pot. Be very gentle with them as they simmer. They’ll reward your patience by keeping their shape and still releasing their flavors into the broth.
You don’t need to serve anything else with this stew, except good crusty bread for sopping up the uniquely flavored broth. You could make this Catalan Cod Stew a tad more authentic if you used Spanish chorizo or Serrano ham instead of pancetta. It would probably take a bit less cooking at the start. I chose raw chunks of pancetta browned in olive oil because I was keeping to the spirit of the recipe by using what I had on hand. GREG