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Parihuela for Noche Buena


Christmas in Peru, as everywhere else in the Christian world, is a time of celebration and libations. The 24th of December – “la noche Buena” (the good night) – is a huge feast, when families gather to enjoy good food before opening their presents together after midnight.

Because we were just rolling back into town after three days away, I needed something quick and easy...but still elegant. I picked a hearty, spicy Peruvian stew: Parihuela.

While I cooked, the boys helped the Nonni trim the tree.


Though it is similar to the French bouillabaisse from the port of Marseille, its flavors and ingredients are uniquely Peruvian.

Two things guarantee a great parihuela: using fresh ingredients and serving it immediately. Traditionally a firm flesh white fish as the main ingredient, such as the center cut of a cod or sea bass. But since Dungeness crab are in season in California, I also added some for flavor, contrast, and to enhance the presentation. And my dad picked up some fresh salmon as well.

3 lbs fresh fish, cut into generous chunks
2 crabs, cooked, cleaned, and cut into large pieces
olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, diced
5 tepin chiles, crushed
1 onion, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 T ginger, minced
freshly ground salt and pepper
dash of ground cumin
1 bay leaf
2 C vegetable broth
1/2 C clam juice
fresh herbs for garnish, I used parsley, tarragon, and oregano
Meyer lemons, cut into wedges

Make a sofrito by sautéing the garlic, onion, and shallots in a pot with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the ginger, cumin, oregano, and tepin chiles. Cook until onions are translucent.

Add the fish and stir for a few minutes to coat the fish with all the spices. Pour in the broth, clam juice, add the crab and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, garnish each bowl with chopped fresh herbs and squeeze a Meyer lemon juice. Merry Christmas!

Apple sauce, tamales and salad are generally served on the side and dinner is accompanied by a heartwarming and rich Peruvian dark hot chocolate fused together with cinnamon and cloves. I managed the apple sauce and salad!

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