On Monday night, we made a new recipe: Emeril Lagasse’s Escolar Stew with Saffron Broth and Wild Mushrooms. We were excited to try something so different, especially on a weeknight. Tony describes how it came together.
As the first step in this recipe, I made the creole seasoning. The recipe makes a lot more than I wanted to have on hand, so I scaled things down so I would have about enough for this recipe and nothing more. (I technically didn’t make quite enough for this recipe – I was probably short by about half a teaspoon – though it turned out fine.) I did the math and mixed together 1/8 of teaspoon each of dried thyme, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and black pepper; 1/4 of a teaspoon each of garlic powder and salt; and a heaping quarter teaspoon of paprika.
Since we bought a package of pre-sliced mushrooms for this dish, there wasn’t very much prep to do. I sliced the green onion, chopped the basil, and diced the garlic. I then cut the monkfish into 1-inch cubes, sprinkled on the creole seasoning, and mixed the monkfish and spices together until the fish was well-coated. If you’re not familiar with monkfish, it’s a very firm, white fish. It’s been called “the poor mans lobster” and “mock lobster” because of its similar texture and taste. Having had both, I understand the comparison, but I don’t think I would ever use them interchangeably!
Last but not least, I sprinkled the saffron into the chicken broth so the flavors would have a chance to marry. If you haven’t used saffron before, it’s a very interesting spice. It comes in beautiful red threads, but turns dishes yellowish-orange when used. The threads are actually parts of a flower and are harvested by hand, which makes saffron, pound for pound, one of the most expensive spices you can buy. (We bought a jar with three little packets for $9.99, which should be enough for six servings of paella or escolar stew.) The taste is hard to describe; I personally find it very minerally – almost metallic – but I really do like it.
I started cooking as soon as Kim got home. I sautéed the fish over medium-high heat for about 1 minute. I then added the mushrooms, tomatoes, basil, green onions, garlic, and spinach and cooked everything for another minute. As a last step, I added the stock and simmered for about 5 minutes. I stirred in some salt and pepper and as the recipe suggests, served the stew in shallow bowls with crusty bread.
Kim and I were both blown away by the stew. The saffron was the predominant flavor, but the creole seasoning gave the dish a lot of depth. The cayenne pepper stood out, giving the stew a nice but of heat, but it was the interplay of all the spices that really made this a great dinner. The costs of the saffron aside, this was so easy to make that we’ll be sure to have it again soon.