Rio de Janeiro's venerable downtown restaurant Rio Minho is home to one of Brazil's most famous "homage" recipes, Seafood Stew Antônio Houaiss, named in honor of of Brazil's most important lexicographer. (The recipe can be found here). But that dish isn't the only one served at Rio Minho which honors a famous Brazilian of the past. Rio Minho is also home to a Brazilian take on the French classic bouillabaisse, created by and named in honor of Leão Veloso.
Pedro Leão Veloso was a Brazilian politician and diplomat who served his country as Minister of Exterior Relations during the period 1944-1946. (Interestingly, his predecessor in that post, Osvaldo Aranha also has given his name to a famous Brazilian dish - details can be found here). In addition to having the soup bear his name, Sr. Veloso was also the creator of the dish. He had developed a passion for bouillabaisse when visiting its birthplace Marseille, France, and decided to create a Brazilian version of it upon his return to Brazil. His soup contained locally-available fish and seafood and substitutes annatto paste or oil (urucum) for bouillabaisse's traditional saffron. According to Rio Minho's chef Ramon Isaac Tielas Domingues, who has been in the restaurant's kitchen for thirty years, over time the restaurant has chosen to add sweet paprika to color and flavor the soup rather than annatto, but other than that, the recipe served to today is entirely Sr. Veloso's.
The recipe calls for a large quantity of a variety of fish and shellfish (just like bouillabaisse). It does make enough soup for a large crowd however, 10 persons, and is filling enough to serve as a main-course dish. Serve with plenty of crusty French bread and a leafy green salad.
RECIPE - Leão Veloso Soup (Sopa Leão Veloso)
1 lb (500 gr) medium shrimp, unpeeled
2 lbs (1 kb) clams or mussels
1 large white fish, whole, including head (grouper, snapper) - about 3 lbs (1.g kg)
4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
salt to taste
2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 whole chili pepper (malagueta, jalapeno, serrano)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb (500 gr) crab meat, picked over
1 lb (500 gr) lobster meat, coarsely chopped
Wash the shrimp and scrub the clams well to remove all sand. If using mussels, debeard them. Separate the fish head from the body - cut the body into steaks and chop the head into several large pieces. Reserve.
Place the pieces of fish head in a large stockpot, then add 2 quarts (2 liters) cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming off foam and scum. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for one hour. Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, pressing hard on the fish to increase the flavor of the stock.
Return the stock to a clean stockpot, bring to a slow boil, then add the shrimp. Cook for 5 minutes or until the shrimp takes on a pink color. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon, let cool, then peel and reserve them. Reserve the stock in the pot.
Next add the clams or mussels to the stockpot and cook for a few minutes, or until they open. Remove the shellfish with a slotted spoon, discarding any unopened ones. Remove the meat from the shells and reserve.
In a large heavy-duty frying pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil then fry the fish steaks, in batches if necessary. Cook until the fish just begins to flake. Drain the fish on paper towels, allow to cool slightly then flake the meat, discarding bones and skin. Reserve.
In the same frying pan, combine the chopped tomatoes, the garlic, the cilantro, the onion and the parsley and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat, or until the onion and garlic have softened and the tomato becomes a pulp. Add salt to taste and the paprika and cook for one more minute.
Heat the stock in the pot, then add the tomato/garlic mixture. Cook over very low heat, at a slow simmer for 40 minutes. Add the reserved shrimps, shellfish and flaked fish, then the crab meat and lobster. Cook for 10 minutes then serve immediately in deep soup plates.