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The confident cook

Recipe: Winter fish stew warms the soul with chorizo, white beans, and garlic toasts

Winter fish stew with chorizo, white beans, and garlic toasts.Sally Pasley Vargas for the Boston Globe

This stew draws inspiration from Spanish and Portuguese traditions, where pork, seafood, and potatoes or beans play important roles. In this pot, beans and dried Spanish chorizo in a rich tomato broth with smoky flavors give the stew some heft. It is easy to assemble and even easier to cook. Saute the fennel and chorizo first, make a sauce with canned tomatoes and chicken stock, and simmer canned beans. Cook the mussels and chunks of white fish very briefly. You can make the broth ahead, and when you’re ready to serve the stew, cook the mussels quickly, then the fish. Keep in mind that the fish continues to cook from residual heat, so undercooking it slightly will yield ideal results as it finishes cooking off the heat.

The texture of dried chorizo is akin to salami; it is cured and hard. It is also intensely flavored with smoked paprika. Look for it in specialty food shops. Or substitute fresh chorizo sausages sliced and added to the pot before adding the vegetables. Another trick is to cook the tomatoes until most of the liquid evaporates to concentrate and deepen their flavor. A winter fish stew warms both body and soul as the chilly season wears on.



Winter fish stew with chorizo, white beans,
and garlic toasts

Serves 6


1loaf French bread, cut into 6 pieces
¼cup olive oil, or more, as needed
1clove garlic, peeled

1. Set an oven rack 4 inches from the broiler and turn on the broiler. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Cut the bread pieces in half lengthwise and place them on a baking sheet with the cut side up. Brush with oil.

3. Broil the bread for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the edges brown and the centers are light golden. Rub the garlic clove over the bread. The outsides will be toasty, but the insides should still be soft.



2tablespoons olive oil
2cloves garlic, finely chopped
1onion, coarsely chopped
1fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into ½-inch dice
¼teaspoon Aleppo, maras, or other crushed red pepper
6ounces mild dried chorizo sausage, sliced into thin rounds
1can (15 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained
1cup white wine
3cups chicken stock
2cups water
Salt, to taste
1pound cleaned mussels
pounds cod, halibut, or other mild white fish, cut into 1½-inch chunks
¼cup chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

1. In a large flameproof casserole over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic, onion, fennel, red pepper, and chorizo. Cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until most of the water from the tomatoes evaporates.

2. Add the beans, wine, stock, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and more red pepper, if you like.

3. Add the mussels and cover the pan. Cook for 1 minute, or until the mussels just begin to open. Add the fish to the pan and cover. Cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the fish is just cooked through. Discard any mussels that do not open.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with parsley, and serve with the toasts.

Sally Pasley Vargas can be reached at