I’ve been saving a recipe for Couscous Sao Paulo Style thinking someday . . .
Well, someday came last week, but before I made it I changed the recipe so much that there is nothing Brazilian or couscous about it. Hence the Paella reference – it really is what I thought about as I put it together.
OVERVIEW: The recipe started as a fish sauce and couscous mold with a few whole ingredients reserved to decorate the exterior, while the rest were chopped to make a rich sofrito that was cooked into that sauce. Instead of couscous, it for called cassava flour and corn meal. I substituted rice that I cooked in a rich lobster broth. It deepened the fish flavor and held its shape beautifully. Besides, I wasn’t sure my guests would like the texture that combination of cassava flour and corn meal implied. The whole process took about 1 ½ hours, mostly chopping and stirring, and could be served warm immediately or at room temperature later in the day. It was delicious!
1 lb white fish fillets (I used cod)
Salt & ground black pepper
1 lb medium shrimp uncooked with shell OR I used shelled and cooked shrimp and added them later in the recipe
1/2 cup vegetable oil + more as needed
2 onions chopped fine
3 garlic cloves crushed and chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley – chop stalks fine, reserve some tops (chopped and whole) for garnish
9 oz ripe tomatoes peeled & chopped OR one 14 oz can chopped tomatoes drained (liquid reserved)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
½ cup black olives pitted & sliced as rings
1 ½ cups white rice
2 ½ cups fish stock, chicken stock or water
1 bunch green onions chopped fine
3 anchovy fillets
½ cup olive oil
3 hard boiled eggs sliced
¾ lb small multicolored mild peppers – about 15 small orange, red and yellow “shooter-sized” peppers – 10 seeded and sliced to form rings reserving the best rings (about 20) and chopping the rest. The 5 remaining get halved long ways, seeded and reserved for garnish
1. Rinse and pat dry fish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Shell and clean shrimp (if using uncooked) otherwise just set aside 10 shrimp, 10 black olive rings, the eggs and the pepper rings. Chop the rest.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Saute the onions and garlic and a little reserved parsley until translucent. Add the fish, uncooked shrimp, tomatoes, chopped pepper, and peas. Stir constantly until the mixture is a thick sauce. Add extra oil by the tablespoon to prevent sticking. (if using cooked chopped shrimp – add now) keep warm
3. Bring stock/water to a boil (add salt as needed) stir in rice, reduce heat and cover to just simmer for 17 minutes (rice can be cooking while you make the fish sauce)
4. Add parsley, green onions, chopped olives and anchovies to rice, mix well
5. Add rice mix to hot fish sauce, stirring thoroughly until you have a moist thick and compact mixture. Remove from heat, add the olive oil and mix well. If it seems too dry, add reserved tomato juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
6. Spray smooth sided mold (could be a bowl or a ring) liberally with PAM. Using the reserved peppers, olives, eggs and shrimp create a pattern or random arrangement on the inside of the mold, starting with just the bottom. Then carefully add a few spoonfuls of the rice/fish sauce mix and pack it in tightly. Slowly build up the sides of the mold adding mix to hold the patterned vegetables and shrimp in place. It has to be molded firmly, compacted in the mold so it will stay together when unmolded.
7. Run a knife around the inside of the mold, put a serving plate on top and turn the mold over. It should come right out. If it doesn’t, and it is too much of a mess to repair easily, reserve the decorative vegetables and shrimp, stir the rice/fish sauce mix with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and repeat step 6.
8. Garnish with reserved parsley and peppers and serve warm, or chill and remove from refrigerator ½ hour before serving – then garnish. Serves 12-16