Chile Seafood Soup (Caldo de Mariscos)
By Chef Rick Bayless, Frontera
Grill and Topolobampo, Chicago, IL
Participant: Cooking for Solutions
Making seafood soup may sound like there's a special occasion
in the offing, but that no longer has to be true. With the wide
availability of fresh seafood, this version of Mexico's beloved,
easily varied coastal soup - even with its super-traditional,
robust roasted red chile flavor - is within anyone's reach.
Chicken broth provides a rich background, shellfish add that
delicious taste of the sea, and epazote gives a classic Gulf
Coast flavor, though it's not essential. (Epazote is available
in well-stocked groceries and Mexican markets, and it's very
easy to grow in pots or small garden plots.)
6 (makes about 3 quarts)
(use organic when possible)
2 tbls. Vegetable or Olive Oil
3 Dried Guajillo Chiles (3/4 oz. total), stemmed, seeded and
torn into large pieces)
1 lg. White Onion (chopped in 1/4-in. pieces)
2 Garlic Coves (peeled)
115-oz. can Diced Tomatoes (in juice - preferably fire-roasted)
6 cups Chicken or Fish Broth
4 med. Red-skin Potatoes (about 1 lb. total - each cut into
2 lg. sprigs Epazote (if available)
1 lb. Mussels* or 2 lb. Clams*
1 lb. Fish* (halibut, mahi mahi or catfish - cut into 1-in.
1/2 cup Cilantro (roughly chopped)
1 Lime (cut in 6 wedges)
1. Heat oil in a medium-large (5- to 6-quart) saucepan over
medium heat. Add chiles and stir-fry until they have changed
color slightly and are very toasty-fragrant, 30
seconds to a minute. Don't over-toast the chiles or the soup
will be bitter. Scoop up chile pieces with a slotted spoon,
pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as
much oil as possible, and transfer to a blender. (A food processor
will work, though it won't completely puree the chile.) Pour
in tomatoes with their juice.
2. Add two-thirds of the onion and all the
garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden,
about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer onion and garlic
to blender and process until smooth. Scoop remaining onion into
a strainer, rinse under cold water and set aside to use as a
3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Set a medium-mesh
strainer over pot and work tomato-chile mixture through it.
Cook, stirring frequently, until reduced and thick, about 6
minutes. Add broth, potatoes and epazote. When mixture comes
to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes
are tender, usually about 15 minutes. Taste and season with
salt, usually a generous 1-1/2 teaspoons.
4. Just before serving, raise heat to medium-high
and add mussels (or clams) and fish. Boil briskly until the
bivalves have opened, usually about 4 minutes. Ladle into large
bowls. Sprinkle generously with cilantro and the remaining onion.
Serve your steaming bowls of beauty with limes passed separately
for each person to squeeze in al gusto.
*Seafood Watch recommends the following sources - mussels: farmed;
clams: farmed; Pacific Halibut: U.S. and Canadian wild caught;
mahi-mahi: troll/ poll-caught, catfish: U.S. farmed.
Riffs on the Seafood Soup Theme:
1. The fish and shellfish can easily change
to include practically any seafood available.
2. Here are my general guidelines. Mussels
or clams add complexity to the soup, so I always try to include
them. Shrimp and scallops are good for meaty sweetness. Most
medium- or large-flake fish can be used in this preparation.
(Fish with a fine flake, like sole or small flounder, tend to
fall apart in the soup, and strong-flavored fish, like mackerel,
bluefish and salmon, can overwhelm the flavors of the broth.)
If crab meat is used, add just when soup is served so it doesn't
3. The potatoes can be replaced by cubes of
chayote (I don't even peel them), 1-inch lengths of green beans,
peas or corn (use the same weight). Or replace them with a drained
28-oz. can of hominy to make a dish similar to the pozole de
mariscos that's popular on Mexico's west coast.
Recipes can also be found in Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless