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Similar to the French bouillabaisse, caldeirada is a fish stew that finds its origins in Portugal. The thick, hearty stew has a non-seafood base, but is stocked with chunks of various types of fish. Traditionally it is served over a chunk of crusty bread.
Traditional caldeirada contains only fish and does not include any shellfish. A variety of fish of differing tastes and textures are added to this original recipe. Oily fish, which include mackerel and skate, are often added, as are the more flakey fish, such as cod flounder and haddock. Along with these, firm fish such as halibut, rascasse, and monkfish are common additions.
Caldeirada begins with a base of ingredients that do not include seafood, and the fish is added after the broth has cooked and been flavored. White wine and olive oil are the initial ingredients in which onion, garlic, and tomatoes will be sauteed. From this process a liquid base is rendered. To this base are added generous portions of fresh parsley. Bay leaf is also added as this stock base is allowed to cook.
If prepared by its original process, caldierada is a long-cooking dish. The blending of flavors needs to cook over time, before the fish is ever added. Cut into large chunks, the fish is added and allowed more time to cook. Often the fish is coated with olive oil before it is put into the base. Once all the ingredients have been added, the stew is cooked on a low heat and occasionally stirred to ensure that nothing sticks to the base of the pot.
With its origins in Portugal, a small country of a size not much larger than the state of Florida, caldeirada can still differ greatly from region to region. Many adaptions to this regional recipe will include shellfish, such as clams or shrimp and lobster. The spices also differ from region to region and from cook to cook. Often saffron, cilantro, and nutmeg are added as flavorings to the stock base while it cooks prior to the addition of the seafood.
When planning to make caldeirada, the focus must be first on the fish. No other ingredient is as important. The fish or seafood should be fresh and cut in large chunks.