Dinner:  October 24, 2007

I subscribe to Food and Wine magazine, and when the October issue arrived last month, I was delighted to see an article entitled “Spanish Food & Wine (A Crash Course).” I’ve been playing more and more with Spanish flavors, and I guess you could say I’ve developed a bit of a crush. A recipe for Galician Fish Stew sounded particularly appealing, so I decided to work it into our dinner rotation soon.

The unseasonably warm weather we’ve had these last couple of weeks has not been particularly stew-friendly, so I was hoping I would have to put the dish off for too long, but as it turned out, yesterday was the perfect day for it – cool and rainy, just the kind of night when you want to curl up with something warm and hearty.

I fiddled around with the proportions of the original recipe just a bit – since I had only purchased enough halibut for the two of us rather than the four fillets called for in the recipe, I decided to reduce the number of potatoes as well. I haven’t gotten around to making a fresh batch of fish stock yet so I substituted plain water, but I kept everything else pretty much the same, and in the end, we had a richly flavored, light yet filling dish. The aroma of the paprika-garlic oil alone makes this recipe a winner.

Galician Fish Stew
(Adapted from a recipe by Janet Mendel in the October 2007 issue of Food and Wine)

For the stew:
Two 4-6 ounce skinless halibut fillets
Kosher salt
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup water (you can substitute fish stock or clam juice)
1/2 cup white vermouth (or dry white wine)
2 bay leaves
1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
3-4 cups coarsely chopped Swiss chard leaves

For the ajada:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Season the halibut with salt and refrigerate for 30 minutes. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, combine the potatoes, water or stock, vermouth or wine, bay leaves, onion, chard and 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over low heat until golden. Add the paprika and red pepper off the heat, stirring well to incorporate, and set aside.

Lay the halibut on top of the potatoes and simmer, turning once, until the fish is just cooked through (6-8 minutes, depending on thickness). Remove the halibut to a plate, and spoon some of the stew into shallow bowls. Set the halibut on top. Ladle some of the broth into the garlic oil and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir well, pour it over the fish and serve.

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