One of Fortaleza's best known restaurants for regional cuisine, Colher de Pau, is famous for its fish stew (Peixada in Portuguese) made from Black Grouper (sirigado or badejo). Colher de Pau, by the way, simply means "The Wooden Spoon", and the restaurant's food is firmly local and traditional without being slavish in its attempt to highlight the food traditions of Ceará state. Incidentally, Colher de Pau was recently named the Regional Restaurant of 2009 by the Brazilian food and culture magazine Veja Guia Fortaleza.
Although the recipe calls for sirigado, it can successfully be reproduced with any firm-textured, white-fleshed fish, such as grouper, snapper, or halibut. Fishes that flake easily, like cod, are less successful substitutes. Peixada is traditionally served with white rice, and fish pirão. Pirão is a thick gravy made from seasoned fish broth thickened with manioc flour. Plenty of hot sauce is always available for those who wish a spicier peixada.
RECIPE - Sirigado Stew a la Colher de Pau
For the fish broth:
1/4 pound sirigado, coarsely chopped
1 pound sirigado heads (including gills), well washed
salt to taste
For the Stew:
1 pound fillet of sirigado (or other substituted fish as above), cut into three or four large pieces
1/2 tsp. of salt
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped white cabbage
1 medium tomato, cut in half
1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
1 medium green pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 chayote, cut in half (if available), cooked
2 small boiling potatoes, peeled, cooked and cut in half
1 medium carrot, cut into large chunks, cooked
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled, but left whole
1 cup canned coconut milk
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
Make the fish broth: Bring the water to a boil in a large pan. Add the fish, plus fish heads and gills and salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. Drain carefully through sieve, reserve.
Season the fish fillets with salt, lime juice, and fresh-ground pepper. Cook the fillets in simmering fish broth, adding the cabbage, and continue simmering until the fish is just tender. Do not overcook. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan heat the olive oil and saute the tomato, the onion, the green pepper, the cilantro and green onion for five minutes. Stir in the fish broth, and then carefully add the fish fillets, the cooked vegetables (chayote, potatoes, carrots) and the hard-boiled egg. Stir in the tomato paste. Let simmer for five minutes, then add the coconut milk. Heat briefly, but do not boil. Serve with white rice and pirão.