The first time I tasted Mexican fish stew was at a little taquria in the small town of Alpine, Calif. Now if you know Alpine, there’s really not much going on there. A very active Kiwinis club, an even more active corner liquor store and some major Indian reservation casino action. There’s more but those are the main attractions.
But when you’re somewhere like that and you are stopped dead in your tracks by the smell of freshly, homemade corn tortillas wafting out of a small restaurant storefront, mixed with a savory carne asada and lime aroma, you are remiss if you don’t poke your head in and see what you can possibly dig in to for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.
See, most of the time in Southern California these little Mexican restaurants are owned by Mexican families that have their abuela (grandma) working in the kitchen and preparing recipes that go back generations. And I had one of those specialties at that taqueria. The best Mexican stew ever.
And what a relief it was. We were all coming down with the worst case of the flu and this was just the dish to lift my spirits. We ordered a big bowl of it and shared it family style–ladeling out big helpings of white fish delicately simmered in chicken broth perfumed with lime and cilantro, chunky tomato, shrimp, crab claws and corn on the cob. Heaven. And so simple.
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I attempted to make this recipe. I wasn’t sure where to start and I began researching ingredients. I found some recipes with potatoes, fennel and other heavier ingredients. Which I love. But maybe not for this stew in particular. I liked the lightness of this stew and decided to create my recipe based on the simple ingredients that make this dish so delicious.
Here is what I came up with.
-4 medium-sized tilapia fillets, each cut into bite-sized chunks
-8 large peeled and deveined shrimp
-1 15 oz. can of roasted diced tomatoes
-1 large onion finely chopped
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 bay leaf
-3 limes. Juice two and leave one quartered for garnish.
-1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
-1 tbsp. of Mexican or California chili powder (not too spicy)
-1/2 tsp. of fresh thyme taken off the stem and chopped
-2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
-2 15 oz. cans of fat-free chicken broth
-2 cups of water
-Salt and pepper to taste
Place the chucks of fish in a bowl and mix with the juice of two limes. Set the fish aside and start heating a dutch oven on medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil, chopped onion, bayleaf and garlic and saute until onions and garlic are soft.
Next, add the chili powder and roasted tomatoes and stir together with the onion mixture. Then add in the marinated fish and add a good amount of salt and pepper. Simmer in the tomato broth, turning once, for about three minutes total.
Then add the chicken broth and water and bring to a gentle simmer. Once simmering add the shrimp, adjust salt as needed and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Ladle the soup into four separate bowls, top each with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge. Muy delicioso!