Portuguese Fish Stew


I decided to make this “stew” specifically to go with the Portuguese corn bread I made yesterday.  It’s damp and dreary on this Portland  night — perfect weather for stew and homemade bread.

This recipe comes courtesy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I kicked up the chili flakes a bit in this recipe because I like spice.


  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, washed to remove interior soil and coarsely chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel, white parts only, coarsely chopped
  • 5 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 c. diced tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • orange zest from 1 orange
  • 8-oz bottle of clam juice
  • 3 c. water
  • 2 c. dry white wine
  • 1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 T. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 lbs mixed white, non-oily boneless fish and shellfish (or just fish)


  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the onion and leeks and saute in olive oil until just softened. Add the fennel and garlic and saute until aromatic.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except the fish and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. While the stock is simmering, cut the fish into bite size portions. Bring the stock back to a rapid boil, add the fish, and cook for one minute.
  4. Add the shellfish (if using) and continue to boil until shells open, approximately one minute. Shake the pan occasionally to encourage clam and mussel shells to open. If using shrimp, turn off the heat as soon as the shrimp lose their gray translucency; any longer and they quickly become tough and overcooked.
  5. Serve hot with wedges of Portuguese Corn Bread.

Hertzberg and Francois recommend using cod in this recipe, as traditionally cod is the typical Portuguese choice of fish for this stew, but cod was slightly more expensive than other white fish I found; so I went with Sole, Pollack, and Tilapia.

I almost threw up while cooking this dish. I’m not kidding. I’ve never cooked with fennel before, and I had no idea it smells like black licorice! I hate black licorice. Luckily fennel doesn’t taste like black licorice. I added more than the recommended amount of garlic just in case I needed a flavor to overpower the fennel. Sis said she couldn’t taste the fennel at all, so I guess my plan worked.

I thought this recipe was OK. Perhaps I made it wrong or perhaps the term “stew” is used loosely, but this dish turned out more like fish soup. The stew/soup had a nice kick to it (spicy enough to make my nose run!), but lacked flavor. I had to add a lot of salt.

I dipped both Portuguese corn bread and Tillamook garlic cheddar bread into the soup (the corn bread was recommended), and I thought the cheddar bread went better in the soup. This recipe was a pretty big miss the first night I tried it! Thankfully it’s not often that happens. However, I think I sold this recipe short. It tastes great on day two.

Recipe rating: 

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