Saturday, August 20, 2011

RECIPE - Seafood Stew Antonio Houaiss (Peixada à Antônio Houaiss)

Antônio Houaiss, member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, was a twentieth-century lexicographer, author and publisher in Rio de Janeiro. His most enduring monument is the Portuguese-language dictionary that he edited from 1985 to 1999 and published posthumously in 2001 entitled Dicionário Houaiss da Língua Portuguesa, usually just referred to in Brazil as the Houaiss.

But the dictionary is not Sr. Houaiss' only memorial. As discussed in yesterday's post on Flavors of Brazil noted persons in Brazil and elsewhere are often memorialized by dishes created in their honor, and in Brazil a rich and luxurious seafood stew has been given Sr. Houaiss' name.

Along with many other intellectuals and literary figures in Rio in the second half of the twentieth century, Antônio Houaiss often chose to dine at midday in a downtown restaurant called Rio Minho. There, his favorite dish was apparently a saffron-scented seafood stew containing fish, shrimps, the strange lobster-like crustacean called cavaquinha, and boiled potatoes. Eventually, he became so associated with the dish that the restaurant decided to add his name to the dish to honor his many literary achievements (and his gastronomic good taste).

Rio Minho restaurant, one of Rio's oldest restaurants, having opened in 1884, is still packed at lunchtime with authors, editors and literary agents, and it's still serving many of them Antônio Houaiss' favorite dish.

Since cavaquinha isn't easily found in fish markets outside Brazil, you can very successfully substitute lobster tail in this elegant (and quite expensive) dish.
RECIPE - Seafood Stew Antonio Houaiss (Peixada à Antônio Houaiss)
Serves 2

6 small boiling potatoes (or 3 medium-large, halved), peeled
2 extra-large prawns, peeled but with tails left on
1 cavaquinha (or lobster tail)
1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine (original recipe calls for Chardonnay)
1 Tbsp saffron
1 grouper or halibut steak
2 Tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
Bring one quart (1 liter) salted water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the peeled potatoes and cook until just tender. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon, refresh them in cold water and reserve. In the same water cook the shrimps and cavaquina or lobster for 5 minutes. Reserve the seafood.

In a small frying pan heat half of the vegetable oil, then add the minced garlic and saute for a minute or so. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the wine and the saffron. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for two or three minutes, then remove from heat and reserve.

In a large frying pan, heat the remaining oil, then fry the fish steak until it is tender and just beginning to flake. Remove from the pan, drain on paper towel and reserve.

Place the fried fish in a small oven-proof gratin dish or deep serving dish. Place the lobster tail on top of the fish and one shrimp at each end of the lobster. Surround with the boiled potatoes, then pour the wine/saffron mixture over all. Place the dish under a pre-heated broiler for a few minutes, or until all the seafood is hot and the liquid is bubbling. Remove from the heat, sprinkle the potatoes with the parsley and serve immediate in the gratin or serving dish.

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