Caribbean-inspired seafood stew brings warm island vibes to your table

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – Marooned at home all winter and with no spring-break travel in the cards this year, I figured at least I can get a taste of the warm Caribbean waters by way of my kitchen. This seafood stew is my way of transporting myself there. It has a broth-like base packed with island flavour – bright with lime, fragrant with thyme, and spicy with Scotch bonnet pepper.

That base, which colourfully features yellow bell pepper and tomatoes as well, comes together quickly and easily, but it’s nice that it can be made ahead so it is ready when you are. And when that time comes, just add large chunks of fish fillet and shrimp to the pot, and simmer for a few minutes until they are just cooked through.

In keeping with the island vibes, I suggest using warm water fish such as red snapper or mahi-mahi, but any firm white fish fillet will work. You could also substitute additional fish or scallops for the shrimp, if you prefer.

The half Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper called for gives the stew a medium-spicy heat that’s prominent but not overwhelming – feel free to use more or less to taste (a little goes a long way), or substitute a milder chile such as jalapeño.

Served over rice with a fresh spray of cilantro leaves, it’s a healthful meal that has a sunny excitement to it, and if I close my eyes I swear I can hear the palm trees rustling in the breeze.

Caribbean-style seafood Stew. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

CARIBBEAN-STYLE SEAFOOD STEW

Active time: 25 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes

Four servings

Bright with lime, fragrant with thyme, and spicy with Scotch bonnet pepper, this colourful, healthful stew, which comes together fast enough to make it weeknight-friendly, is brimming with Caribbean flavour. The amount of chile gives the stew a medium-spicy heat that’s prominent but not overwhelming – feel free to use more or less to taste (a little goes a long way), or substitute a milder chile, such as jalapeño.

Make Ahead: The stew may be made up to the point of adding seafood, then refrigerated for up to five days.

Storage Notes: Leftover stew can be refrigerated for up to two days.

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola, grapeseed or avocado oil

1 medium yellow onion (about 8 ounces), diced

1 medium yellow or orange bell pepper (about 8 ounces), diced

1 celery stalk, sliced

1/2 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes with juices, or 1 cup fresh diced tomatoes with juices

1 cup seafood stock or water

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus more to taste

1 1/2 pounds skinless red snapper, mahi mahi or other white fish fillet, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

8 ounces large shrimp (about 12 shrimp), peeled and deveined

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Cooked rice, for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

In a large Dutch oven or a large, deep skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, Scotch bonnet or habanero and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened somewhat but have not browned, four to five minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the tomatoes, seafood stock or water and the lime juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the sauce thickens a bit and the flavours are melded, about 10 minutes. (If not planning to eat right away, you can let the stew cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until needed.)

Gently stir in the fish and shrimp, raise the heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring gently occasionally, until the seafood is just cooked through, five to seven minutes. Taste, and season with additional salt and lime juice, if desired. Divide the stew among bowls, garnish with cilantro, and serve with rice, if desired.