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Hearty Cod and Chickpea Stew

It’s just over a week into the new year, but temperatures are already frigid in most areas, and cold and flu season also in full swing. There are many ways of keeping yourself warm this winter season, but sometimes turning on the heater and putting on a thick sweater isn’t quite enough. At mealtime, one of my favorite ways of bolstering myself from the inside out is with a big bowl of satisfying fish stew. After all, there are only so many mugs of hot cocoa one can or should drink.

Inspired by what is generally referred to as seafood or fisherman’s stew—Italian-American cioppino and classic Provencal bouillabaisse are the most well known examples—our simplified version pares things down to the necessities while maintaining a lot of flavor. Rather than including a wide variety of shellfish that must be cleaned, prepped and added at different times to prevent overcooking, the recipe below uses just one type of fish (cod). There is no addition of wine, pastis or saffron, although, if you wanted to, you could. What this dish does incorporate, however, is an untraditional ingredient for extra protein, fiber and heft: chickpeas.

Why chickpeas? This ingredient makes a regular appearance in many tomato-based recipes and fish dishes found in Mediterranean cuisine. Plus, the soft, creamy texture and starchiness of the legume mimics that of the tender potatoes in the stew, making it a natural addition to the dish.

 

A bowl of hearty chickpea and cod stew

 

Another shortcut that has been taken in this recipe is the use of bottled clam juice instead of fish stock. Rather than simmering fish bones for hours to make homemade stock, clam juice and water are used to provide a clean, reliable seafood base. This readily available pantry item is pretty salty and one-note by itself. But, when added to a fragrant mixture of sweated aromatics (leeks, fennel, red bell pepper and celery give sweetness and depth), it allows you to simply doctor your way into making a respectable broth when good quality fish stock isn’t available.  

If you’re afraid of cooking so much fish at once when there are only one or two of you at home, don’t let that stop you from making this recipe. Instead, make the recipe up through Step 3, save and freeze half of the stew base (to which you can add fresh fish later on), and add half the original amount of fish to the pot. Even if you can’t finish this amount of stew all in one meal, the leftovers can be refrigerated for up to a few days and gently reheated on the stovetop for a later meal.

Hearty Cod and Chickpea Stew

Other firm white-fleshed fish or even salmon can be substituted for the cod. To round out the meal, serve the stew with baguette slices, toasted sourdough bread or focaccia, if you like.

Ingredients

chickpeas

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 leeks, halved lengthwise, white and light green parts thinly sliced crosswise

1 fennel bulb, cored, thinly sliced, some fronds reserved for garnish  

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 celery rib, chopped

1 Tbs. minced garlic

1 Tbs. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

14.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

14.5 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, including juices

1 bay leaf

3 (8 oz.) bottles clam juice

4 cups water

12 oz. russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 lb. cod, cut into 2-inch pieces

Cooking Instructions

Dutch oven

1. Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, fennel, bell pepper and celery and cook, covered, until softened and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

3. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, bay, clam juice and water. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes longer.

4. Remove the bay leaf, add the cod and cook until the fish is opaque and flakes easily, about 5 minutes.  

5. Divide among serving bowls and garnish with fennel fronds, if desired.

Serves 6.

Comments

1:08 PM on January 11, 2017 Scarlett Gunter
Freezing the broth and using clam juice is a nice touch, I didn't think of that!

Great recipe!
1:10 PM on January 11, 2017 Tammy Wooden
This sounds perfect for a rainy day
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