When Rammy Award-winning chef Jeff Black adopted two stray cats, one wouldn’t touch his food. To encourage him to eat, Black whipped up a fish stew from what he found in his fridge. The cat lapped it up, and the chef was inspired to tweak it for his other diners — the human ones at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace.
Que Sueño los Gatos (a.k.a. What Cats Dream of) Stew
Serves six to eight
2 skinless rockfish fillets (can substitute almost any fish; mahimahi and swordfish work wonderfully)
2 tbsp. garlic, chopped
3 tbsp. shallots, chopped
4 tbsp. butter
2 lb. jumbo Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 tbsp. tomatoes, chopped
2 lb. blue shell mussels
3 qt. chicken stock
1 pt. calamari tubes, cut into rings
1 bag fresh spinach
1 qt. saffron milk (recipe below)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 baguette, sliced into ½-inch croutons and toasted
3 tbsp. parsley, chopped (optional)
Fresh ground black pepper
Red chili flakes
1. Dice fillets into approximately 1-inch cubes.
2. In a wide-bottom saucepan, saute garlic and shallots in butter; season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
3. Add rockfish, shrimp, and tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium and saute until shrimp are about halfway cooked.
4. Add mussels and chicken stock. Cover pan and steam mussels open (5-7 minutes).
5. When mussels are open, add calamari and spinach. Stir 2 minutes.
6. Stir in saffron milk; season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
7. Serve in bowls with baguette and garnish with chopped parsley.
For the saffron milk
1 qt. heavy whipping cream
1 qt. whole milk
2 tbsp. saffron threads
1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
2. Cook gently for 20 minutes, reducing by half.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, 1612 14th Street Northwest, between Corcoran and Q Streets (202-319-1612 or pearldivedc.com).
Photo: Scott Severson / Courtesy of Pearl Dive Oyster Palace