Shipboard Romance: Portuguese Fish Stew

When I was a the culinary lecturer on a cruise organized by Gohagan & Company to Portugal, Spain, France (Belle-Ile-en-Mer and Honfleur) and the walk-around Channel Island of Guernsey, one part of my onboard job – and one I really liked – was to call the play-by-play for Chef Alain Morville’s demo of a terrific Portuguese Seafood Stew.

Morville’s stew, known as Caldeirada da Marisco, is an example of a dish that lends itself to variation.  As he was setting up for the demo, the chef, who was born in the north of France and began his career as a pastry chef (of course I loved him for that), said, “You know, this is a Portuguese dish, but it’s just like French fish stews.  For instance, it’s a lot like Cotriade, a Breton fish stew.”

I knew exactly what he meant, since the origins of these stews are all pretty similar:  they were dishes that fishermen made onboard their ships.  For the most part, they were very simple dishes – soupy dishes in which the cooking liquid was often sea water and the fish was often whatever wouldn’t fetch the highest prices in the market.

seafood stew in bowl-thumb-330x219-1234


This version of the dish is not as frugal as a sailor’s stew.  The chef used lots of seafood and added chunks of monkfish, too; he poured in a whole bottle of white wine (sauvignon blanc); and instead of water, he used shrimp stock, made with shrimp heads and shells, aromatic vegetables and a little more white wine.  He also added a few lumps of butter at the end – a more typically French than Portuguese finish.  But as he said, everything about this recipe is changeable.  You can use one or many kinds of shellfish; the liquid can be chicken or vegetable broth or just water; the fish can be cod (as would often be in Portugal) or hake, haddock, monk or any other firm white fish; and you can go heavier on the garlic or onion, if you’d like.  In other words, this is another of my favorite type of recipe – one you can play around with and make your own.

Photographs by Mathieu Gesta.


Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I might earn a small fee from qualifying purchases. All opinions remain my own. While it does not cost you anything, it helps offset the costs of running this website. Thanks for your support.

Caldeirada da Marisco

Portuguese Seafood Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 1 quart water (shrimp stock or chicken or vegetable broth)
  • 2 medium white potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 16 small hard-shelled clams
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (the chef peeled them, of course)
  • 1 pound skinless white fish, such as cod, haddock or hake (the chef used monkfish), cut into 6 chunks
  • 3/4 pound squid, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 24 mussels
  • 12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or more to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of sweet paprika

Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  (As you can see, the chef used a wide sauté pan.)  Add the garlic and onion and sauté for about 5 minutes (until soft, but not colored).  Add the wine and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the water or broth, potatoes and bay leaves.  Bring to the boil again, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the clams and tomatoes and continue to simmer just until the clams start to open, about 10 minutes.

Add the fish, squid, mussels, shrimp and parsley and cook until the mussels and clams are fully opened and the fish is tender.

Note:  Keep an eye on the pot – if the potatoes are done, take them out, put them aside and then return them to the pot to reheat toward the end of the cooking; ditto the clams or the fish.

Swirl in the butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Ladle the stew into bowls and sprinkle with paprika.