The confident cook

Recipe: Mildly spicy pasilla chiles warm the broth for a fish stew with cumin

Fish stew with cumin and pasilla chiles
Fish stew with cumin and pasilla chiles(Karoline Boehm Goodnick for the Boston Globe)

Mild white fish such as cod, haddock, or halibut simmers in an aromatic broth made from mild chiles in this stew. The pasilla chiles used here, the dried version of fresh chilaca peppers, are mildly spicy but rich in flavor. Most supermarkets carry them; if not substitute ancho chiles, the dried form of poblanos.

Toast the pasillas in a dry skillet to enhance their complexity. Then core and seed them and steep in boiling water to soften the flesh. Puree them in a blender to create the base for the stew, then simmer them with sauteed onions and celery, ground cumin, and potatoes. Add the fish a few minutes before serving so the pieces stay intact, then sprinkle with fresh cilantro. Light in calories and deeply flavorful, the bowls are also satisfying enough for hearty appetites.


Fish stew with cumin and pasilla chiles

Serves 6

3whole dried pasilla chiles
2cups boiling water
2tablespoons olive oil
3cloves garlic, finely chopped
1onion, chopped
2stalks celery, chopped
1tablespoon ground cumin
1can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
3cups chicken stock
3large Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½-inch dice
2pounds boneless cod, halibut, or other mild white fish, cut into 1½-inch pieces
Salt and black pepper, to taste
¼cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat a small skillet over high heat. When it is hot, place the chiles in the pan and toast, turning often, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened and slightly charred; cool.

2. Discard the chile stems and the seeds. Transfer the chiles to a bowl. Pour in the boiling water and steep the chiles for 15 minutes. Transfer the chiles and their liquid to a blender, and blend until smooth.

3. In a large, flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, and celery. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until softened.

4. Add the cumin, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the pureed chiles, tomatoes, stock, and potatoes. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

5. Add the fish and a sprinkle of salt. Press the fish down into the liquid and cover the pan. Continue cooking for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.


6. Taste the broth for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper, if you like. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cilantro.