Friday, March 26, 2010

Recipe: Michelle's Caribbean Fish and Lobster Stew

I cannot begin to list the culinary phobias that my wife Michelle had when we first met and began dating. Cooking for her or dining out was a potential mine field of cringing, picking at food and complicated cooking instructions to our poor server. Straight off, seafood was out, and so were more "exotic" options like Indian, Thai and Japanese. Even in Chinese restaurants she rarely got more adventurous than chicken fingers and chow mein. Simple ingredients like tomatoes, mushrooms, chickpeas, squash, hot peppers and broccoli were deal killers.

She also had subtle and not so subtle control issues where food was concerned. She often diligently prepared each and every bite of food she would take by arranging the components just so. I watched her nearly squeal with delight one afternoon in a Montreal pizzeria where she asked our server for a side of pizza sauce with her pizza and was not only served the side of sauce, but was presented with a paint brush with which to apply it.

She also committed what I would call "sins against cuisine" and amongst the most vulgar of these was her use of a copious amount of granulated white sugar with spaghetti and sauce. That's right, place a tasty plate of spaghetti and sauce in front of her and she would take a big bag of sugar and begin pouring it on and mixing it in to her spaghetti and sauce.

Can I get an "EEEEEEEEEEEK!" here?

All the above, is what makes all that follows so profound. You see, Michelle has come around since we met. My wife has spun a 180° on her culinary heels. Gone is the former food phobe and in her place is someone who will at least try almost anything once. She relishes things she once would have run from. Shrimp and fish are now part of her preferred ingredients. Curry, something she would have never eaten in million years just a few years ago is now her de facto, indisputable favorite food in the world! Broccoli and chickpeas, something she formerly abhorred are now things she requests regularly. All because she decided to just try things a couple of times. Rather than weenie out, she thugged up and opened herself up to a world of great food! I think of that now and it makes me proud. You see, I have a 38 year old, 200+ lb. male friend who is afraid of seafood, fruit and almost all vegetables! A banana makes him gag! You could rob him with a banana instead of a gun! He says "It's a texture issue". Michelle says "thug up pusswad!".

Michelle has also taken a liking to cooking, which I should appreciate, but it scares me. For years, I've always been the cook and she did dishes and we were both happy with that. Now she's cooking more often and liking it AND she's cooking well. I fear I may soon become redundant! So, I try to stay sharp and a few steps ahead of her. Thankfully, the children take up a good deal of her time!

Below is one of her personal recipes and one of my favorites that she cooks. If you told her years ago that she would create a fish and lobster stew recipe along with ingredients like jalapenos, tomatoes, chickpeas and saffron she would have laughed in your face! LOUDLY!

This is a GREAT Caribbean-style, tomato-based fish stew that is light and delicious and sparkles with accents of citrus and cilantro. There's a little spice in there too, but nothing to be afraid of. Of course, if you'd like it spicier, you know what to do. Michelle would also like you to know that you can put in clams, shrimp, conch and any other seafoods that you may like.

SHE USED SAFFRON! SAFFRON, I tell you! I'm so proud!

Michelle's Caribbean Fish and Lobster Stew

1 lb. Mahi Mahi fillets (cut into bite size pieces) *
4 oz Lobster meat (cooked, cut into bite size pieces) **
1/4 cup Olive oil
1/2 cup Onion (chopped)
1 Tbs Jalapeno pepper (chopped fine)
3 cloves Garlic (chopped fine)
1 cup Dry white wine
1 cup Orange juice
28 oz. can Diced tomatoes (do not drain)
8 oz. can Tomato sauce
16 oz. can Chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
Small pinch of Saffron threads (soaked in 1/4 cup hot water for about 1/2 hour)
1 Tbs Orange peel (grated)
1 tsp dried Basil
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1/4 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Pinch of Red pepper flakes
1 Tbs Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 Tbs Corn starch
2 Tbs fresh Cilantro (chopped)

Place a dutch oven over medium high heat. When the pan gets hot add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and jalapenos and cook, stirring frequently until translucent.

Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes being careful not to burn it.

Add all remaining ingredients except for the fish, lobster, cilantro and corn starch. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Carefully stir in the fish and lobster meat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and continue simmering until the fish flakes easily with fork (about 4 to 5 minutes).

Mix the cornstarch with a little water and then add to the stew slowly, mixing it in. Continue simmering for 3 minutes as the stew thickens.

Stir in 1 Tbs of the chopped cilantro and simmer for 1 more minute.

Serve hot in a bowl garnished with the remaining cilantro and paired with your favorite crusty bread.

* You may substitute your favorite firm, flaky white meat fish.
** You may substitute crab meat or chopped shrimp if you like.


  1. "thug up pusswad!"
    Michelle's awesome!

    Kate will eat many things now, but anchovies are a worry and mushrooms still don't make the cut.

  2. Hello Jason, thanks for your comment! Michelle used yo not like mushrooms and now likes them. It is just a matter of presenting them in a nondefinite/nondescript manner. I got Michelle to try them by chopping them small and putting them in chicken marsala. Once she got used to them, eh, not so much chopping.

    As for anchovies: puttanesca! She may not even be sure she's had them, but anytime I want to add a rich saltiness to food: anchovies. Michelle loves them she probably just isn't aware. At this point she wouldn't care.

    Kate will come around. Think of all the good work you've done thus far!