Get warm with Easy Fish Stew
You know how it is, some nights you just cannot get it up for making dinner. It happens to everyone eventually. As apathy turns to desperation, you frantically flip through usually reliable triggers of culinary desire – The Naked Chef, Nigella Bites, The 60 Minute Gourmet – all to no avail. Nothing but nothing, not photos of plump pink shrimp glistening with teriyaki or video of Daisy Martinez expertly deboning a chicken or even the excitement of Anthony Bourdain filling in for Tom Colicchio, can get you in the mood to sauté, braise or fry no matter how hot your family is for a decent meal. You don’t want to cook; you want to want to cook, but it is just not happening. What to do, what to do?
Enter the one bowl meal. If handled correctly, it’s easy, pleasurable and satisfying and from start to finish takes only minutes. As an added bonus it seldom causes much mess by virtue of its unfussiness and limited number of ingredients. So even if you have to close your eyes and grit your teeth to get through it, the whole ordeal is mercifully brief. Your family walks away from the table flushed with the glow of a hot meal, and you can feel serene in the knowledge that your duty has been done, even if you did have to fake it, at least to some extent.
I have a few standbys for these situations: pasta with butter, broccoli and parmesan; spinach and feta omelet; leftover chicken and gravy on toast. These are the usual suspects, and really any leftover lends itself to this kind of cooking, but my best one-bowl, would-ya-hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with meal is a kind of slattern’s bouillabaisse (a quickie, if you will)….
Easy Fish Stew
- Mince a smallish onion and a few ribs of celery and sauté them in a big pot with olive oil and a couple tablespoons of chili powder for about five to ten minutes. You can add red or green peppers to this if you want, though, as you know, I do not recommend green peppers for anything. But if you like ’em, have at it.
- You can also add a small summer squash or zucchini (quartered and sliced) to the onion mixture after it’s been cooking for a couple of minutes if you happen to have one or both on hand. Not, strictly speaking necessary, but a nice touch.
- To your sautéed vegetables, add a large can of chopped tomatoes (I use the Pomi brand in the box because it has less sodium than most, but if that’s not a concern to you, just toss in whatever you’ve got.), half a can (or half a box) of water, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional) and half a cup or so of frozen corn. Stir and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes or so, uncovered.
- Check for taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Turn off the heat.
Now at this point the base is complete, and you can just leave it on the stove or the counter for several hours before adding the fish. In fact, it actually tastes better after it’s been sitting around a while, as is so often the case with soups.
- When you’re ready to eat, just cut up about a pound of white fish into cubes (cod, scrod, haddock, even tilapia, but not flat fish like sole or flounder – they just fall to pieces) and throw it all in the simmering soup. If you like, you can also add shrimp (fresh or frozen) with the fish or use shrimp only. Whatever you’re in the mood for or can scavenge from the freezer, as the case may be. Fresh fish and shrimp take very little time to cook, so gratification is immediate.
And really that’s it.
By the by, quite often once I get going I find I don’t mind the act of cooking as much as I had thought I would, and sometimes I even kind of relax and enjoy it. At times like these, I’ve been known to make a little starchy side for the fish stew. Sometimes I throw together a batch of corn bread (from the recipe on the back of the corn meal bag – no big deal there) or whack open a baguette, butter it, sprinkle on a little minced garlic and parmesan then bung it under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Occasionally I even leave the lights on.