Corn and poblano seafood stew, in New York in August 2018. The stew, which takes cues from pozole verde, uses seafood and corn to add a refreshing flavor to this summertime meal. (Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times)
Photo: ANDREW SCRIVANI/NYT
Photo: ANDREW SCRIVANI/NYT

Cap a hot day with a fish and corn stew

There was something surprising going on in the pozole verde at Mita’s Restaurant and Bar in Cincinnati.

Instead of the usual chunks of pork or chicken poking out of the chile-laden broth, tentacles, purple and white, curled over the radish and avocado slices. When I plunged my spoon in, plump grains of hominy mingled with shrimp and red snapper.

The flavors were familiar: There was the heady tang of lime juice and tomatillos, the fiery smack of the green chiles, the grassy cilantro. But while a more traditional pozole verde has fatty chunks of pork or chicken (or both) to lend heft and richness, the chef Jose Salazar’s seafood variation was briny, light and perfectly suited to the steamy heat of a summer evening.

“I’ve got to imagine somewhere in Mexico someone’s put seafood in pozole verde before, but I’ve never seen it,” Salazar said. When he tried it, the combination made perfect sense.

In this version, I’ve taken Salazar’s already lighter pozole and made it even more August-appropriate. In place of starchy hominy, I used fresh corn, both kernels to mix into the broth and rounds to pick up and gnaw.

Before I added the corn, though, I grilled it to add a caramelized, smoky character to the dish. Salazar’s recipe had me charring the chiles and tomatillos before puréeing them, so the grill was already hot. (You can also do these steps in a broiler as long as you or your air-conditioner can handle the kitchen heat.)

At Mita’s, Salazar uses a combination of seafood: fish, squid, lobster and shrimp. But you can choose one or two varieties. Just take note of timing, adding quicker-cooking ingredients (thin fish fillets, squid ringlets) after any thick pieces of fish or shrimp, so everything is ready at the same time.

In any pozole, the garnishes are as important as the dish itself, and that holds true for inauthentic, pozole-inspired stews like this one. You don’t need to use all of the garnishes, but try to include the avocado for creaminess, along with one crunchy vegetable like cabbage or sliced radish for a contrasting texture.

When winter comes, you can replace the fresh corn with hominy to make a more substantial, warming dish. The seafood will welcome it with open tentacles.

RECIPE:

Corn-Seafood Stew With Avocado and Chiles

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

4 medium tomatillos, husked

2 medium poblano chiles

1 large jalapeño

5 large ears corn, shucked

1/2 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 small shallots (or 1 large), halved lengthwise and sliced

2 packed cups cilantro leaves and stems, plus more leaves for garnish

1/2 cup packed parsley leaves and stems

Fine sea salt, as needed

2 cups vegetable, chicken or seafood stock, preferably homemade

3/4 pound squid, tentacles separated, bodies cut into 1-inch rings

3/4 pound shelled shrimp, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 pound firm white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 limes, cut into wedges

Diced avocado, for garnish

Sliced radishes, for garnish

Shredded green cabbage, for garnish

Tostadas, for garnish (optional)

Preparation:

1. Heat a grill or broiler. If grilling, grill tomatillos, poblanos and jalapeño until well charred all over, 3 to 7 minutes per side. If broiling, spread them out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Broil until charred all over, 3 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl, cover with a plate or foil, and let cool.

2. Grill or broil corn until golden brown in spots, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let cool, then use your heaviest knife to slice two of the cobs crosswise into 2-inch rounds. Cut kernels off remaining 3 ears and reserve.

3. In a medium skillet over high heat, add oil. When hot but not smoking, add garlic and shallots and cook, sautéing, until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a blender.

4. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Place cilantro and parsley in a colander in the sink. Pour boiling water over herbs to wilt them, then immediately run cold water over them to cool them down. Press hard on herbs and squeeze to remove excess water. Transfer herbs to blender with shallots.

5. When chiles are cool enough to handle, remove skins, seeds and stems, and discard. Add peeled chiles and tomatillos to blender along with a large pinch of salt. Purée the mixture, adding a tablespoon or 2 of water if needed to make everything move, until it is thick but pourable. Taste and add more salt, if needed. It should be well seasoned.

6. In a pot or large skillet, bring the stock to a simmer. Add fish and seafood and cook until it’s just cooked through, 1 to 3 minutes. Stir 1 cup of chile purée into the seafood mixture and season aggressively with freshly squeezed lime juice from some of the wedges, and salt to taste. Taste and add more chile purée if you like. Stir in corn kernels.

7. To serve, spoon stew into bowls and top with rounds of corn on the cob, more lime wedges, avocado, radishes, cabbage and cilantro leaves, with tostadas on the side if you like.

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