help brightening up yesterday's fish stew
July 27, 2017 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I made this fish stew yesterday. (Thanks for the recipe, shoesietart!) It tastes very good, but not great. Help me brighten up the leftovers.

I followed the recipe closely. I used cod, canned tomatoes, marjoram instead of thyme, and a small pinch of red pepper flakes. Generous amounts of fresh garlic and parsley. Fresh tomatoes might have been better, but it's too late for that. It needs another source of zing. More salt helps a little. I tried fresh lime juice in my bowl and that wasn’t quite right. What acid would you add? Please help me make my leftovers great!

I have access to all typical United States grocery items and a medium size international market.
posted by a moisturizing whip to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For acid: I'd do a dash of vinegar at serving time: balsamic, red-wine, or apple cider. Alternately get some vinegar in there by using the called-for Tabasco, or use Sriracha (not sure if you did pepper flakes instead of Tabasco, but if so, then you're down on vinegar.) Ketchup will give you tomato flavor, and sugar, and vinegar, all of which should help fill out the flavor profile.

I'd definitely add the thyme if you have it, and basil. Basil and tomatoes are always good. Instead of simple salt, try soy sauce, liquid aminos, marmite/vegemite, something with brown umami flavor if you have it. Along those lines some sautéed mushrooms would go in there nicely.

I'd also personally add more fat. Olive oil is fine, but maybe coconut oil or straight up butter would pack more yum-factor. Fat will help pull out more flavors from the herbs and fish and also give a heartier mouthfeel.

I suspect if you do all that it may be overkill, but I figured a shot gun approach was best since I don't know what you like.

(PS as someone who likes to cook and use leftovers but doesn't like to follow recipes, "improve my leftovers" is a really fun question, thanks, hope to see more!)
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:09 AM on July 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Since it already uses white wine, I would use a complimentary white wine vinegar if you can get some. Sherry vinegar if you can't.

And yeah, to 2nd Saltysalticid, butter.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:11 AM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you tried to today yet? I often find soups and stews are way better on day two with no changes made.
posted by advicepig at 10:12 AM on July 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'd add lemon not lime if adding citrus or white wine vinegar if you added wine.

Some cracked black pepper, people never use enough.

Also butter & or cream/creme fraiche for a bit of fat stirred in at the end. Or have some to just spoon some on top when serving. If you can't do dairy for some reason coconut milk might be nice ooh then add some curry paste/powder (cook it out first in some oil) and make a curried fish stew but I love curries so could be biased here and have just made your stew a whole other dish.
posted by wwax at 10:17 AM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was also coming to suggest a few splashes of vinegar. Though I'm a huge devotee of balsamic, I'd go with apple cider for extra brightness in this. In addition, the vaguely Mediterranean flavors to me suggests adding some capers. If you have a jar of pepperdew, I would mince a few in there as well.
posted by flourpot at 10:19 AM on July 27, 2017

I bet this would be delicious with a dollop of sour cream.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:20 AM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might think I'm crazy, but I would add some grated romano cheese (Locatelli, to be specific).
posted by blurker at 10:30 AM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fish sauce. It's acidic and salty and fermenty. Start with a drizzle and go from there.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:32 AM on July 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'd add dill, lemon zest, and a bit of cream (okay, cream isn't "bright" but it would add a chowdery dimension.)
posted by kapers at 10:33 AM on July 27, 2017

This is very similar to a recipe I make often.
As you say, a little more salt is probably good, but also, I think they are being mean with the herbs in the recipe. Marjoram and oregano are very similar, so you might want to introduce something else, basil or sage if you don't like thyme. But here's the thing: if those herbs aren't fresh, they will need to cook for a while in order to give your stew a lovely aromatic taste instead of a scratchy and unpleasant one and your stew can't take that much more cooking. So if you want to add more aromatic herbs, I suggest you put a 1/2 cup of dry white wine or dry white vermouth in a saucepan with about a teaspoon of dried herbs and some freshly ground black pepper and let it reduce till the alcohol has evaporated, then add it to the stew while warming it. Also add some freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste. Everything is better with lemon juice, and lime is rarely a good substitute because it is sweeter and aromatic in a different way.
If you have fresh herbs you can chop a bunch of them (maybe 1/2 cup pr. portion) very finely and add them while warming the stew, along with lemon juice, no need for more wine in this case.
Personally, I would not add more fat to the stew, but you could make a rouille to dress it with, like one would with a bouillabaisse. And serve with garlicky croutons.
posted by mumimor at 11:16 AM on July 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

I make something very similar and I find that lemon zest plus a splash of white wine or cider vinegar really brightens it up.
posted by blerghamot at 12:04 PM on July 27, 2017

I make a similar chowder recipe that calls for 2 teaspoons of turmeric and garlic croutons. Yum.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:58 PM on July 27, 2017

Thanks everyone! So many great ideas, so many differently flavored bowls. I'm probably going to try them all and want to mark all of them best answer. Apple cider vinegar, butter, and fresh basil was delicious.
posted by a moisturizing whip at 6:28 AM on July 28, 2017

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