Mexican Seven Seas Soup (Caldo de siete mares)
Guajillo sauce base:
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
8 medium-large dried guajillo (or New Mexico) chilies, stemmed, seeded
1/2 C. water
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/8 t. freshly ground pepper
Pinch ground cumin
1 T. vegetable oil or olive oil
3 quarts fish broth or chicken broth
2 large sprigs of epazote or cilantro
2 t. salt, about
6 small boiling potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 C. diced zucchini or chayote
2 ears corn, shucked, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch rounds, optional
1 lb. tightly closed fresh mussels or clams, scrubbed, beards removed
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless rockfish, bass or cod, cubed
12 medium-large shrimp, peeled, deveined
2/3 C. finely chopped white onion, rinsed under cold water, drained
1/2 C. loosely packed chopped cilantro
1 large lime, cut into wedges
For the sauce, cook garlic in a heavy skillet over medium heat, turning, until soft and slightly blackened, about 4 minutes. Let cool; peel.
Using the same skillet, toast the chilies 1 or 2 at a time, flattening and pressing down on each with a spatula for a few seconds; turn, press again. Cover toasted chilies with hot water; let stand, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain; discard water.
Put chilies, garlic, water, oregano, pepper and cumin in a food processor or blender. Blend to a puree, adding more water if necessary. Press through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard remaining solids. Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add the puree; cook, stirring, until reduced to a thick paste, about 5 minutes.
For the soup, add the broth and epazote to the guajillo sauce; simmer 45 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Taste; season with salt. Add sugar if necessary.
Add the potatoes to the hot broth. Simmer uncovered until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini; cook 3 minutes. Add the corn and mussels; simmer until the mussels open, about 2 minutes. Add fish cubes; cook 2 minutes. Stir in the shrimp; remove from heat. Cover; let stand 3-4 minutes. Serve in large bowls. Pass the onion, cilantro and lime wedges.
Yield: 6 servings