Spicy Tunisian Fish Stew (Chreime)
Adapted from Saveur
I found the recipe in last month’s (I think! I’m so behind on reading) Saveur. Gabriella Gershenson, whose writing I’ve loved for many years, traveled to Israel and immersed herself in the kind of food that I could eat every single day. I could only dream of such a trip. The recipes that came with the article, I clipped every single one and now they await my attention. This stew came to Gabriella via Lior Lev Sercarz, the genius spice magician behind La Boite a Epices. I’ve been a longtime admirer of Sercarz alchemy and his unmatched ability to create the most delicious spice mixes, and I even got to talk to him when doing research for my a cookbook I was working on last year. I switched out a few things, but mostly the recipe is perfect as is. I wanted to use cod for the stew – it’s a meaty texture I really like in hearty fish dishes. My local produce store was out of Thai chilies (which never ever happens), so I used the jalapeno that was languishing my crisper, but if you have a sensitive to heat palate, perhaps you want to start with 1 Thai chile or ⅓ of a jalapeno because the stew turns out to be quite spicy. If you hate cilantro, perhaps a mix of parsley and mint will do the trick? When the stew cooks, the most amazing smell permeates the kitchen, (I know, fish stew smelling amazing?), and lingers in the most delightful way.
6 fish filets (about 4 ounces each), such as sea bass or grouper – I used cod
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup olive oil
10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 small red Thai chiles, or one large jalapeno, stemmed and roughly chopped
6 tablespoons (or one 6-ounce can) tomato paste
2 cups minced cilantro
Combine fish, juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chiles, and cook, stirring, until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until slightly caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add cilantro and 1 1/4 cups water; and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until sauce is slightly reduced, 6 minutes. Add fish, skin side up (if it has skin), with its juice and cover. Cook until fish is done, 18 20 minutes.
Serves 4 to 6