yesterday's post about peixada cearense, we mentioned that the dish, like many other traditional dishes in Brazil and elsewhere, has numerous recipes and an untold number of variations. But unlike, for example, moqueca de peixe from Bahia or something like Greek moussaka, peixada cearense was popularized by one particular restaurateur in Ceará's capital, Fortaleza, only fifty-plus years ago. Thus, the myriad of recipes for peixada cearense can be thought of as theme and variations. There is Alfredo, Rei dos Peixes' recipe (the theme) and everybody else's (the variations).
In studying classical piano, it doesn't make any sense to practice the variations until you know the theme. Same thing with peixada cearense. The recipe below is Alfredo's original - once mastered, it can be changed, amended, altered and varied as you see fit. But you should try it this way the first time, just so you know the original.
One thing that you might have to vary, even the first time through, is the kind of fish that you use. Alfredo uses fish that are caught locally - right outside the front door of his restaurant, in fact. Fish like dourado, garoupa and badejo. You should too - use only fish that are fresh in your own city's fish markets. Firm-fleshed white fish are best, particularly those that can be bought in the form of steaks. We're found that one of the best is halibut, but in others can be just as successfully substituted in making your own peixada.
RECIPE - Ceará Fish Stew (Peixada Cearense)
2 lb (800 gr) fish steaks - any firm-fleshed white variety
1 small (1/2 medium) green cabbage, cut into chunks
2 large boiling potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered depending on size
2 tomatoes, seeded and halved
2 medium carrots, peeled and quartered
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into large pieces
2 whole eggs, hardboiled and peeled
1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
annatto oil (can substitute 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped green onion, green parts only
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper and cook for about five minutes. Add the annatto oil or paprika, mix well, then add the tomato, cabbage and potato. Add water just to cover the ingredients, then cover the pan, reduce heat and cook just until the potatoes and carrots are almost cooked.
Add the fish steaks, salt and pepper to taste, and the coconut milk. Stir gently to mix. Cook for about five minutes, uncovered, or until the fish is cooked and just beginning to flake. Add the whole eggs, continue to cook just until they are heated through, then remove from heat.
Stir in the cilantro and green onion, pour into a deep serving bowl and serve accompanied by white rice.