Weekly Recipe Recommend: The Fishwife’s Magical Meal – fish, shrimp, tomato, basil, black beans…

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I have SO MUCH to catch up on for the blog because of basically just enjoying life – and bouncing my comments back and forth with actual people (visitors off and on since December 24, at least 6 tea parties and get-togethers since Thanksgiving) – so that the time for describing our happenings to other friends and family has just been too short.  Fun things to tell you about!!  I can’t wait!  But not tonight. 🙂  I have a friend who has been asking for this recipe for a while, and since I made it last night, I need to post a few pictures and the instructions before I move on to the regular storytelling. 🙂  Something else I hope to share in the next few days is my road to recovery from Plantar Fasciitis.  I am going to start the post, detailing what I’m doing for it, and then I will wait til I can verify the results before publishing it.  This is all just to say that I am doing things a bit differently than I was before, and I’ve done more reading on the subject in the hopes of returning to running some time this century. 🙂  You’ll just have to wait, though, to find out what I’m doing, and whether or not it works!

“Magic” has been the name by which my husband refers to this meal, and I modeled it after a meal we ate at The Fishwife in Pacific Grove, CA, so that’s how the title evolved, though in actuality it’s another one of those things for which we really don’t have a name.  I am not trying to brag about the awesomeness of this recipe, especially since it’s one I sort of made up myself, but if you should happen to make this, I think you will agree that it is outstanding.  I only make it about 2-3 times a year, but it is always highly anticipated beforehand and lovingly remembered for the week following.  Here’s my cousin Ben about to dig in — he, his wife, and his three children visited for the day yesterday after not seeing us for over nine years!

about to dig in

about to dig in

So here’s a quick summary before I get into the recipe — it’s my black beans beside a dollop of brown rice (this is how the meal was served to us before), a crispy corn tortilla topped with baked white fish (any sort works) with a delicious creamy tomato-basil seafood sauce to finish it off.  Truly. Magical.

I made a recipe in the Of Tide and Thyme cookbook put out by the Annapolis Junior League (a gift which circulates among Naval Academy graduates and newlyweds in Annapolis) for Salmon with a tomato-basil sauce.  As soon as I tasted it, I knew it was a good place to start for replicating the meal from The Fishwife.  A few months later I set about creating my masterpiece – only because we moved away from Monterey and could no longer dine at The Fishwife. 🙂

I have done this before making the black beans on the same day, and it’s a little much.  Often now I will wait until I have some in the freezer from a previous meal so I can pull them out the day I need them for this dish.  This time I started the beans the day before by boiling them for hours with some fresh chicken stock (three frozen chicken carcasses from old rotisseries that I just toss in the freezer rather than picking off the rest of the meat once we’ve eaten one for dinner) with a few bones and some skin thrown in.  (Of course I soaked them the night before that.)  I have made the mistake of boiling my beans with a chicken in the past, and then it’s too hard to remove all the chicken pieces because a strainer can’t be used (since that would strain out the beans as well!)  Normally I use ham hocks or a hambone from a family ham for this very reason.  This time I was possibly making it for someone who only eats chicken (no beef or pork) so I went with the chicken.  I made it into stock, strained it, then added the stock to the beans to boil them, adding the extra things like bone and skin to help break down the beans.  I posted my black bean recipe a while back here.

Okay – so the black beans are bubbling away on the stove, all cooked down and seasoned, smelling yummy.  Now it’s time to construct the seafood sauce.  It’s the basic tomato-basil creamy yumminess made into a lobster sauce (usually) by simmering some lobster tails and claws in with the sauce (then removing the meat from the shells and dicing it into the sauce) or by just cooking some shrimp in the sauce like I did last night (hey – it was all I had.)  I have also used lobster stock that I made by boiling lobster shells and pieces and parts from previous meals and then frozen, which of course doesn’t add any yummy lobster meat to the sauce.  Having done this so many different ways, I have found them all to be delicious, so do whatever seems easiest. 🙂  Start out by sauteing the onions in oil until they soften up and are just about translucent.


Add the skinned, diced tomatoes and simmer about fifteen minutes.  I used five tomatoes.  Once you skin them, you need to seed them as well before dicing them.  I have tried it by blanching the tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds then dipping them into an ice bath which great reduced the peeling time, but this time I didn’t have an extra stovetop burner available, so I just peeled them the old fashioned way. 🙂

photo-455Here is a picture after I have simmered them down about ten minutes.

photo-456Once you have simmered this together for fifteen minutes, add either the shrimp or the lobster tails/claws (or both) and simmer together until the seafood is cooked completely.  The sauce will never be boiling again, so there will not be another chance for the seafood to cook past this point.

After having just added in the frozen shrimp

After having just added in the frozen shrimp

If you’re using stock, then skip this step, which is taking the time to cook your seafood.  As you can see, mine has already been peeled, and I needed to cook it for about fifteen minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven and place your white fish into a lightly oiled baking dish.  I drizzled melted butter over the fish, sprinkled it with a bit of Italian season, salt, and pepper, and baked it at 350 until flaky (about 20-30 minutes – from when I remembered to pop it into the oven until it was time to serve up the plates.)

tilapia going into the oven.  Mine was frozen and thawed on the counter for about half an hour while I prepared other things.  Nothing fancy about this fish.

tilapia going into the oven. Mine was frozen and thawed on the counter for about half an hour while I prepared other things. Nothing fancy about this fish.

Here’s how the sauce was looking once the shrimp had cooked:


I removed the tails whilst they were cooking in the pan just by cutting them with my stirring spoon.  If you’re using lobster, remove it from the pan to get rid of the shells and dice up the meat, replacing the meat into the sauce.  Now it is time to add the cream and the chopped basil.  Stir them into the sauce and heat through without allowing it to boil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Here’s another “meanwhile.”  As things continue to cook, heat up some olive oil to fry the corn tortillas.  Cook each one until it has just become crisp, then remove it to a cookie sheet in the hot oven lined with paper towels.  Fry enough for every plate to receive one, including a few extras for people like my husband.  Dish up a spoonful of brown rice, add a generous scoop of black beans beside it, then place a fried tortilla on top, sort of dividing the plate into thirds where one third has the rice, one third the beans, and the last third the tortilla which overlaps the other two.  Making sense?  Place a serving of fish on top of the tortilla, and finally, ladle the sauce over top of it, letting it drizzle over onto the rice as well.  Garnish with fresh cilantro (coriander, for all you Brits!)


The black beans and crisp tortilla serve to give this Mexican flare though the sauce is more of an Italian concoction.  I would definitely class this as a Mexican dish, so perhaps serve it up with chips, fresh salsa, and delicious guacamole as an appetizer. 🙂  Let me know if you make it and enjoy it as much as we do!!




1/2 onion

5 peeled, seeded medium tomatoes

1 bunch basil


Cook onion in 2 Tbsp Olive Oil until onion is soft and translucent.  Add the tomato and simmer about 15 minutes over medium heat.

Cook 1 lb shrimp and/or a few small lobster tails or claws in the pan with the onion/tomato mixture.  Once fully cooked (about 15 minutes) remove meat from shells and return to pan.

Bake 4-6 pieces of any white fish at 350 until flaky – about 20 minutes.  I season mine with butter, Italian seasonings, salt, and pepper before baking.

To the saute pan add (once the seafood has been fully cooked):

1/2 cup light cream or 1/2-&-1/2

1 bunch chopped basil.

DO NOT BOIL.  Heat through; salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with sides of Black Beans and rice as a topping over the fish with a crispy corn tortilla (I suppose super-crispy tortilla chops could work, but they get soggy faster than an actual tortilla which has been fried.)

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