Biche de Pescado

  • One pound firm white fish fillets, either one kind or a mix of things such as halibut, sea bass, monkfish or swordfish
  • Various shellfish, (optional, see note below)
  • Fine sea or kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced fine (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 leek, white and light green part only, cleaned (see box opposite) and chopped fine
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 ajicitos dulces chopped fine (if you don’t have ajicitos, use a few tablespoons of finely chopped cubanelle pepper)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
  • 1 cup peanuts, salted or not
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 4 cups bottled clam broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 yucca (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 green plantains, peeled (see page 000) and cut into 1 ½-inch lengths
  • 12 ounces calabaza or butternut squash, peeled (see page 000), seeded and cut into rough 1 ½- to 2-inch pieces
  • 2 ears corn, shucked and cut into 1 ½-inch rounds

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Cut the fish into pieces about 1 ½ inches. (if you’re using monkfish as one of your choices, trim as described on page 000 and cut the tail into ½-inch rounds.) Season them with salt and pepper. Spread the flour out on a plate and dredge the seasoned fish in it, then bounce it around in your hands to get rid of excess flour.

Pour enough oil into a large skillet to fill ½ inch. Heat over medium heat until the tip of the handle of a wooden spoon gives off a lively sizzle when dipped into the oil. Add as many pieces of the fish as fit without touching and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. (If you choose to add shellfish, it’s not necessary to brown them first.)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy 5- to 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, leek, cilantro, ajicitos, garlic and cumin; cook until the garlic is fragrant and the vegetables are wilted, about 4 minutes. Stir in the alcaparrado.

While the sofrito is cooking, blend the peanuts and milk at low speed until smooth.

Pour the clam broth and water into the pot and bring to a boil. Skim any foam and fat that rises to the surface. Peel the yucca, cut it in half crosswise. Cut the thicker end into quarters lengthwise and the thinner end in half lengthwise. Cut all the yucca pieces crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Add the yucca, green plantains, and calabaza to the broth. Cook, partially uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir the corn into the soup, then the peanut mixture. When the broth comes back to the simmer, stir in the fish. (If you’re adding mussels and shrimp, do so now.) Cook until the fish is heated through and the corn is tender, about 4 minutes.

Ladle the soup into warm bowls. Serve right away.


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