spanish style fish stew with john’s crazy crispy potatoes

There’s going to be a lot of cod on Simmer this summer. As you probably know, we’re doing a csf (see here) and, since cod is one of the main catches in Glouchester bay, it’s one of the main fishes in the csf. It’s seriously some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever eaten and so so so good. Only problem I’ve been running into (besides my filleting skills, or lack there of) is cod’s disappointingly poor attitude towards being frozen. Read: it just doesn’t freeze well at all. Maybe something to do with the water content, but it’s always super flakey, hence hard to serve in one piece, and sadly, never quite as meltingly tender as fresh from the ocean. But alas, since I don’t have 5 hungry children (or any for that matter), it would be pretty much impossible for us to consume a 10 lb cod without freezing some. Which brings me to today’s recipe – part of my own little self-help series on things to make with frozen cod in all its flakey glory: fish cakes, stews, and the like. 

This is a fiery stew that’s about as far away as you can get from the classic New England fish chowder. I love a good creamy bacon flecked chowder now and then, but summer time calls for a lighter treatment (though I still managed to work some pork in there.) Fish stew or chowder is a perfect place for frozen fish since the idea is for it to flake apart anyways, but of course it’s equally good with fresh if that’s what you have. I served the stew on top of what I can only call, “John’s crazy crispy potatoes.” Hands down the best roast potatoes I’ve ever eaten, the first time he made these I went looking for the secret deep fryer in his kitchen. No deep frying necessary, and hardly that much oil or fat at all, the secret to these potatoes is par-boiling them before you roast them. Add a slice or two of grilled bread and a glass of wine and you’re in business. Serves 6-8.*
*If you don’t have 6-8 for dinner, but want to make enough for leftovers, make the stew as directed, but leave the fish out. All fish, cod included, is best cooked and eaten right away – it just doesn’t re-heat well at all. The stew, without the fish, can be refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen up to 1 month, and when you’re ready to serve all you need to do is warm and add a few pieces of fish to steam. 

For the Stew
1 link spicy pork sausage
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
Half a bulb of fennel, roughly chopped
Half a bottle of beer or 1 cup dry white wine
1 28 oz can good quality whole tomatoes
1 cup homemade or good quality bought fish stock
Salt and pepper
1 ½ lbs skinless cod filets (or sub another flakey white fish)
Olive oil and chopped parsley to serve

For the Crispy Potatoes
2 lbs roasting potatoes
A good drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Make the Stew:
Heat a large sauté pan or deep heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Remove the sausage from its casing and, using a wooden spoon to break it apart, cook until brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and fennel and cook until the vegetables are tender and aromatic, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the beer or wine and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes and the fish stock and reduce the heat to low. Season with salt and pepper and simmer 1-2 hours. When ready to serve, add the cod filets, cover, and cook until done about 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately over the crispy potatoes garnished with olive oil and parsley. 

Make the Potatoes:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Leaving the skins on, cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces and cover with water in a medium size pot. Bring to a boil and cook until slightly tender. According to John, “you just want to take the edge off,” rather than cooking them all the way through. Drain and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Potatoes, like all starchy foods, always take more salt than you’d think, so be heavy handed. Roast until crispy, about 30-40 minutes.

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