Suquet de Peix (pronounced “soo-ket de pesh”) is a famous and popular fish stew throughout the coastal regions of Catalonia and Valencia. It’s a great way to stretch out really good fresh fish. Monkfish is commonly used, but probably the most traditional fish for suquet in Catalonia is Scorpion Fish, and some of its closer relatives. You can use all kinds of fish. The reddish rock fish called vermillion, which my fish monger regularly has, work great for this. Just choose a nice white fleshed fish that you can get whole .
This is a super simple dish that’s full of flavor. It comes together very quickly, making it a great choice for a night you find yourself entertaining company without a whole lot of prep time. Make a good salad to start, and serve the suquet as a main course with good crusty bread.
Like most things, you will find different versions of exactly what belongs in a suquet, but every version I’ve come across has a light tomato broth and potatoes. Some people cook red or green peppers with the tomatoes, different ingredients can wind up in the picada, and some people like to add clams (or occasionally other seafood) to the stew. Saffron may or may not be included, depending on who you ask, but I always use it, as it adds another dimension of flavor, aroma, and color that I love.
Ingredients (Main course for 4 people)
1 whole fish, about 2 ½ pounds, cleaned, gutted, and cut in 2 - 3 oz pieces, bone in, head kept separate
3 large, ripe Roma tomatoes, cut in half and grated – Discard the skin
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 lbs waxy potatoes, cleaned, (and peeled, if desired) cut into 1½” pieces
9 or 10 almonds
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 pinch saffron
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for cooking
1. Rinse the fish head off in cold water, and then place it in a small pot. Cover with 5 – 6 cups of cold water. Bring up to a boil and reduce heat to gently simmer. Skim off and discard any scum that rises to the surface. Let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
You can do start this step, then prep the other ingredients, and begin cooking while the fish simmers.
2. Heat a cazuela, or heavy-bottomed pan on medium-low heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom, then add the tomatoes and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and then sauté gently, stirring regularly, until the tomatoes have given up all of their water and cooked to a pasty consistency.
3. Stir in the potatoes, along with another pinch of salt, then pour in enough of the fish-head stock to cover. Adjust the heat to gently simmer.
4. Make the picada: Use a mortar and pestle to crush the saffron. Add the garlic and mash into a smooth paste. Next, add the parsley and when it is incorporated, add the almonds, and again mash until you have a nice pasty consistency.
I typically make the picada while I am waiting for the potatoes to cook, but you can do it earlier if you like.
5. When the potatoes are about ¾ cooked, stir in the picada, and then the fish. Adjust the heat to keep the broth simmering gently. Cook until the fish is just barely cooked through, which shouldn’t take more than about 5 minutes. Taste, and adjust salt as necessary. Serve hot, immediately.
Note: The goal is to have the potatoes perfectly cooked just as the fish cooks through. You'll have to use your judgement to get it right.