A Far Flung Jamaican Tryst
Whoa Nellie! This is some irie* fish stew! I’m sorry to report that this recipe is not the result of an intense ethno-culinarigraphic (made that word up) exploration. I was really just looking for ways to cook these codpieces (not like the Shakespearean versions), and I had an immensely large sweet potato (suggestive?) and a very homely plantain to contend with (aren’t they all homely?). This type of dish with fish is called a Run Down or a Far Flung most commonly. And it is Jamaican or Trinidadian in origin from what I read. The fish breaks up within the stock and becomes almost like a chili. Traditionally using peppers, the dish is very adaptable. Key ingredients are some heat (from dried or fresh chilies), tomatoes, onions, fish, garlic, ginger, broth, and coconut milk.
(* Irie means nice, good or pleasing. No wonder I have always liked Chef Irie!)
Ingredients (2 large servings)
- ½ lb cod pieces, cut into large chunks
- 2 C (peeled) cubed sweet potatoes (about 2 inches)
- 1 very ripe plantain (peeled) cut into 1 inch slices (learn how to peel it in the note below)
- 1 C slivered yellow onion
- ½ C diced celery
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1 C chopped tomato—very fine—remove seeds
- 1 ½ C chicken broth
- 2/3 C coconut cream (approximately a 5.4 oz can)
- 3 C fresh spinach (saved until the end)
- 1 T minced fresh garlic
- 1 t grated fresh ginger
- 2 T (or more?) very hot pureed Hatch chilies or other hot stuff like Siracha or Korean pepper paste (use to your liking—add sparingly at first and adjust at end)
- 1 t cinnamon
- ¼ t allspice
- ½ t onion powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 T honey
- 2 T coconut oil
- 2 T butter plus another 2 T butter to finish (total of 4 T butter)
- 1 lime (quartered)
- Salt and pepper
- Steam or boil the sweet potato in salted water until just tooth tender, about 5 minutes. It should be pierce-able, but not at the mushy stage. Drain and set aside.
- Sauté onions, plantains and celery in 2 T coconut oil and 2 T butter until just beginning to brown. You will need to smash the plantains down and flip them to cook them through (see end note about prepping the plantains). Don’t forget to salt and pepper them.
- Add tomato paste and stir in to char just a little over medium/high heat.
- Add sweet potatoes to pan, heat and caramelize a bit.
- Add diced tomatoes, broth, coconut cream, garlic, ginger, chili paste, cinnamon, allspice, onion powder, and bay leaf. Add dash of salt to taste if you like.
- Drop in the bay leaf and the honey and bring to simmer. Stir gently. You don’t want to break up your sweet potatoes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Once simmering well, add the cod and simmer for an additional 6-10 minutes, or until your fish is to the consistency you like, keeping in mind that the goal is to have it flake apart but not be pulverized into oblivion.
- Take off heat. Add 2 T butter and stir (gently) until dissolved and a glossy sauce forms.
- Remove bay leaf.
- Put spinach on top of stew. Cover and wait 5 minutes. Stir spinach into the stew and re-heat if necessary. Adjust the seasonings to your liking.
- Serve over a bed of warm basmati rice.
- Squeeze 1 lime quarter over dish and garnish with the other.
How to Peel and Fry Plantains for this Recipe:
- You would think that since the plantain looks just like a banana that you would simply peel it like one. Wrong! The peel is really infused into the fruit, so a different method is required.
- Cut the plantain into rounds about ½ to 1 inch thick—with the peels still on. Then, make a slice into the peel that will allow you to pull the peel off of the round.
- You will be left with a bunch of rather ugly rounds. And sitting on your cutting board for a while, they might even oxidize with some grey/blue. Never mind, they will be fine.
- Fry the rounds in oil for 2-3 minutes, then flip over.
- Take a glass or jar and squash the plantain. This makes more surface area and helps with cooking. Plus, they are really cute when squashed.
- Continue to fry for another minute or so until golden brown.
Note: the blacker and gnarlier the plantain, the sweeter. Very yellow plantains take longer to cook and are not as sweet. You can keep a plantain in your fruit bowl on your counter for several weeks if need be.