Recipe: "Schvitz" Fish Stew

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A good friend has been serving this stew up for a few winters now - often at my request. She adapted it from Deborah Madison’s Tomato, Fennel, and Potato Stew with Saffron recipe (The Savory Way, 1998). It was first served on a weekend when we hosted a sweat lodge, hence the "schvitz" in the title. Even without spending the day in a sweat lodge, the body still gets a nice sweaty release, thanks to a heavy dose of garlic rouille.

(recipe after the jump)The Stew
Serves 8 modestly, 6 heartily

1 1/2 pounds red, or yellow-fleshed potatoes
2 fennel bulbs
2 cups whole canned tomatoes w/juice (or 1 lb. ripe toms peeled, seeded)
salt
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large leek, white part only, finely diced
1 large yellow onion, roughly diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp. herbs de provence*
2-3 pinches of saffron threads
2 strips of orange zest, about 2" long, 1/2" wide (use a veg. peeler)
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup pitted black olives
1 lb. fresh cod

*Herbs de Provence (in case you don’t have some on hand in a decorative ceramic vessel) is a mixture of mysterious proportions of dried thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender, savory, chervil, basil, parsey, salt, basically a little of all the aromatics you have in your cupboard. Use what you have.

1. Peel the potatoes and slice them lengthwise into sixths or eighths and then half again across.Trim fennel and cut into wedges 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, leaving some core so pieces stay intact. Cut the tomatoes into large neat pieces.

2. Bring pot of water to boil, salt liberally, add potatoes and boil 5 minutes. Remove potatoes (put them in the same bowl as your cut up fennel and tomatoes) and keep the cooking water.

3. While potatoes cook, warm olive oil in a wide pan – add the leek, onion, garlic, herbs, some salt, saffron, orange zest and bay leaves. Cook slowly over medium heat until onions begin to soften – about 7 minutes. Add the wine and let reduce by half. Add tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, olives, half the parsley. Pour in enough potato water to cover, bring to a boil, lower heat and cook for 35 minutes.

4. Rinse and cut the codfish fillet into 2" chunks, add to the stew after 20 minutes.

5. Garnish with remaining parsley and a drizzle of rouille (below) - offer extra rouille in a bowl for the brave.

The Rouille

3-5 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp course salt
1-2 tsp ground red chili or cayenne pepper
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1/c olive oil

1. Pound garlic in with mortar and pestle with salt until it is broken down into a smooth paste (can be chopped and mashed with back of wooden spoon in small bowl, or worked over with a flexible paring knife against a cutting board – salt helps break it down).

2. Work in the cayenne/chili and the egg yolk.

3. Either while mixing by hand, or in a blender, gradually add the olive oil – literally drop by drop at first, eventually in a small stream. If it ever stops turning into a thick creamy sauce and separates, chill in fridge, then try mixing around again, or start with a new egg yolk… second try is always a charm. If it gets too thick, add a little hot water.

(Adapted from Deborah Madison)

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