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Brudet (Croatian Seafood Stew)

Hoca

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Brudet is a fish stew from Croatia, similar to an Italian Brodetto or Greek Bourdeto. All three are based on the Venetian word brodeto (“broth”). The recipes for each dish are similar; in fact, if you ever find yourself traveling along the Adriatic coast and see a similarly-named dish on a restaurant menu, you can probably bet it’s going to be a delicious fish stew cooked in a tomato base.

While there is a lot of variation to this dish, I like the Croatian version because it is an easy and unassuming approach to making soup. Marinate some fish for a while, then throw everything together at the proper time; it’s a true one-pot dish. Traditionally this dish is made with a mixture of fishes, to include eel, rockling, or coral trout; since they’re hard to come by, I think any firm white fish should be okay. I used cod. Adding shrimp and mussels also gives the stew a more rich and satisfying flavor.

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Serves four

1 lb firm white fish filets (cod, trout, halibut, or any combination), cut into 2″ pieces
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
6 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon (1 tbsp)
1/4 cup chopped parsley

for later:
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
2 bay leaves
2 cups fish stock or water
salt and pepper to taste, about 1/2 tsp each
1 lb raw shrimp, shelled
1 lb mussels, washed and scrubbed
10 cherry tomatoes


While water can be used to make the soup, adding a couple cups of fish stock really takes it to another level. To make stock, sauté some onions, carrots, and celery in butter until softened, then add fish bones/heads, some peppercorns, and enough water to cover everything; simmer for 40 minutes, add a little white wine, then strain. Easy.

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The fish takes some marinating, so let’s knock that out first. Combine 2 tbsp olive oil, 6 cloves minced garlic, lemon juice, and the chopped parsley, then rub it all over the fish pieces. Cover and put in the fridge; marinate for 2 hours.

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Once the fish is done marinating, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet on medium heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the onion slices and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.

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Once the onions are softened, add the chopped tomatoes and sauté until they are softened and cooked down, another 5 minutes.

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Stir in the tomato paste, white wine, and bay leaves and return to a simmer. Taste and add salt and pepper to you liking.

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Add the fish and enough stock or water to cover the fish, about 2 cups; return to a simmer, and let it bubble for about a minute before adding the rest of the ingredients.

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Add the shrimp, mussels, and cherry tomatoes; simmer until the fish is cooked through and the mussels open, about 5-6 minutes. Don’t stir the pot, but shake it back and forth if needed to redistribute everything. And whatever you do, don’t cover the pot; locals believe that covering the pot will dilute its taste.

Sprinkle on a little more parsley if you’re up for it, and serve. This dish is often served with polenta, but I think it’s just fine as it is.
 
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