Thursday, February 9, 2012

Calamari and Catfish Stew with Plantains

Who doesn't like calamari?  It's actually one of my favorite seafoods.  As I sit here writing this post, I'm reminded of the year I spent in Chicago, when I became obsessed with the blackened calamari at Davis Fish Market - it's by far the best preparation I've had.  I'm talking whole pieces of calamari, covered in blackening spice and chargrilled to perfection.  It's one of those dishes so darn good that I can remember exactly the last time I had it.  It was the dead of winter and I met up with two friends from undergrad after a long day of work.  We sat on the left side of the dining room for drinks and appetizers, discussing all the exciting changes at hand - business ventures, job offers, and graduate school.  Good times!

I happened to have some calamari on hand this past week and it got me to thinking about the possibility of incorporating it into a hearty stew.  I did a little research and came up with this recipe.  I kind of built it around the calamari and the ingredients I had on hand.   Most of the technique is inspired by the American South, but the flavors are more reminiscent of West and North Africa.  This stew and the leftover blood orange sangria turned out to be the perfect antidote to the snow flurries and windy breezes hovering over Maryland these past few days.  

Calamari and Catfish Stew


1 large red onion, diced
4 red bell peppers, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
5 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
1/2 pound dried chickpeas
3 cups chopped okra
2 large 28 oz-cans of whole tomatoes
1 pound of calamari
1 pound of catfish, cut into medium-sized chunks
1 sprig fresh thyme
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
3 bay leaves
pearled couscous, prepared according to package instructions


Begin by soaking the dried chickpeas in 4 cups of hot water.  Boil for 2 minutes and set aside for an hour.  

Blend one can of tomatoes and chop about half the tomatoes from the second can.  Set aside.  Refrigerate and store remaining tomatoes.  In a large bowl, season catfish and calamari with Cajun seasoning and set aside.

In a large stockpot, cook the red onion, bell peppers, celery, garlic, and ginger in the olive oil for about 5 minutes on medium heat.  Add 2 cups of the vegetable stock to the pot and reduce the liquid by half.  Then, add the blended and chopped tomatoes, chopped okra, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and the remaining vegetable stock.  Stir.  Reduce to low heat and cook for about 1 hour 30 minutes.  Add the soaked chickpeas and cook for another 40 - 45 minutes.  Add catfish during the last 20 minutes of cooking, and the calamari should be added during the last 2 - 3 minutes of cooking.  Serve over pearled couscous with plantain pieces (see recipe below) on the side.  Enjoy!



2 plantains
canola oil


Peel plantains and slice lengthwise.  Cut each half into 3-4 pieces.  Then, add about 1 inch of canola oil to a frying pan and heat to 350 degrees.  Fry plantains until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Allow to drip dry on a plate covered with paper towels.

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