RECIPE: Baltimore Fish Stew

This recipe is courtesy of SFDC board member and local food historian, Mark Haskell. It is more of a guideline than a precise recipe… which if you know Mark, is very typical of his free-form (and delicious) style. This is the version of the recipe he shared at the March 30, 2019 fish chili event at Common Good City Farm.

First, a bit of context: There are few examples of typical Baltimore Fish Stew recipes according to most culinary historians, but numerous anecdotal stories, and mentions can be found in
Chesapeake history. Fish Stew often used the chili that we now called the Fish Chili
because it was so ubiquitous an ingredient in the stew – thus the name. Baltimore specifically and the Chesapeake region in general used to be a major region for processing fish and shellfish, and before refrigeration was widespread, a lot of the catch was salted and pickled
to preserve the fish for storage  and shipping. Various forms of stew also used whatever
local, seasonal ingredients were available – i.e. in the summer more fresh tomatoes,
okra, fresh peppers, etc. — and in the winter more preserved ingredients like preserved
tomatoes, chiles, dried beans, rice, etc.

Baltimore Fish Stew with Chesapeake Fish Chiles, Our Recipe

Ingredients

  • Salted white fish (such as haddock or cod), soaked to at least 24 hours, changing water a few times to rid excess salt
  • Dry beans, soaked and cooked according to variety
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Dried fish chilies, or sauce
  • Crushed garlic
  • Dried herbs to taste
  • Diced onions, celery, carrots, turnips, potatoes, or other vegetables of your choice, and/or cooked rice/barley/legumes if you like
  • Vinegar, and/or beer, wine or brandy
  • Fish or shellfish stock
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper, sorghum/honey/sugar – helps balance out chili and flavors
  • Oil, butter, or rendered fat to sauté veggies, and to enrich final stock

Directions

  1. Cook beans til tender with some oil/fat and seasonings (not salt). Cool and then salt to taste.
  2. Poach soaked fish with some garlic, onions and herbs, just til tender and able to flake, then remove any remaining bones and skin. Cool, then set aside.
  3. In a big pot sauté veg until tender (not garlic, will burn), start with onion and potatoes.
  4. Add Vinegar and/or other liquids to deglaze (clean and cover pan), cook for a minute or two to take edge off vinegar and cook off alcohol.
  5. Then add stock, tomato, garlic, chili, and herbs – let it all simmer, allowing time for flavors to “marry”. taste from time to time, see what it needs more of – to your taste.
  6. Add cooked fish and beans and let simmer together – then start seasoning (careful with the
    salt – balance with a sweet), then add more of what you want.

* Note: add more stock moisten or stretch, If too liquid crush some of the beans and
potatoes – or add some tomato paste.

One thought on “RECIPE: Baltimore Fish Stew

  1. Pingback: March 30: All About Fish Peppers - Slow Food DC

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