El Bulli Fish Stew

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If you had asked me as a kid if I wanted fish stew, I have no doubt I would have turned up my nose at the thought.  If I had known then, what fish stew could taste like, I think I would have reacted differently.

Several years ago a colleague of mine gave me Ferran Adria’s cookbook The Family Meal. This is the famed chef from once top restaurant in the world, El Bulli. Needless to say, I was extremely intimidated by it, and for a long time, it served as coffee table book. If you ever get a chance to look at it, it is very scientific, and not for novice chefs, so you might understand why it sat there for a few years.

Recently in trying to get inspiration and learn new recipes I decided to pull it back out. I read through the entire introduction, which is really fascinating, and eventually got to the recipes. The recipes are set up as meals with an appetizer, main, and dessert.  For the right dinner party I will make an effort to prepare a whole meal, but for James and I, we only need the main.

The last couple of days have not been the best weather here in Connecticut. It’s been grey and rainy, so in honor of the impeding fall season, I decided to make the El Bulli fish stew.  Its kind of a compromise between a summer and winter dish.


The recipe called for Mackerel, but our fish monger didn’t have it.  Instead I used Bronzino, but in hindsight, I would use cod or any other filleted white fish to save us the trouble of spines.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1lb of cod
  • 1lb of new potatoes
  • 1 vine tomato
  • 2 tbsp parsley finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 4 cups fish stock
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp aioli (recipe below)

Grate your tomato on the large holes of a box grater, and then put the flesh into a strainer to drain out the liquid for 15minutes.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1″ pieces.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan, and add your garlic. Cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add most of the chopped parsley  saving some for garnish and all of the grated tomato.

Cook this mixture for 5 minutes and then add the paprika and potatoes stirring until the potatoes are coated in the tomato/garlic/parsley mixture.

Pour in at least half of the fish stock until the potatoes are mostly covered, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 25 minutes.


After the 25 minutes, season your fish with salt and pepper and gently add them to the pan cooking for 5 minutes.

Mix your cornstarch with 1/2 tsp of water or so until its smooth and stir it carefully into the pot. Try not to break up your fish when stirring.

Simmer for another 5 minutes allowing the liquid to thicken and then add the aioli* to the pan.

Serve in shallow bowls and sprinkle the remaining chopped parsley on top for garnish.

The cornstarch and aioli give it a thick, creamy consistency making it seem rich without any added cream.  This stew is so delicious and light, I can’t wait to make it again!

*Aioli is just a garlic/lemon mayo so to make a quick batch for this recipe take a tbsp of mayo, squeeze 1-2 lemon wedges into it and add about 1/8 tsp of garlic powder.  Season it with salt and pepper et voila!

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