I'm definitely not that much of a seafood guy and would easily go over for a meat dish anytime. But I do love any dish with coconut cream added in. For me, the creamy richness of coconut simply makes food too irresistible. And this seafood Moqueca is no exception.
We're using white fish for this recipe. I've chosen tilapia fillets for their tender, perfectly-flaky texture, though you may use practically any firm-fleshed fish. Bass, trout, snapper, would all be perfect alternatives. Choosing extremely delicate varieties like sole or flounder would not be too ideal for this stew because of the possibility of their flesh breaking down in the sauce.
We'll also be adding in shrimps to the stew. You may peel them to make eating the dish less messy, but leaving them shell-on would totally be fine, and better yet more flavorful. But why not have the best from both ways? Here's a tip if you happen to find head-on, shell-on shrimps. Take the heads and shells off but reduce them into a broth. Put them into a small saucepan with water and a bit of salt. The salt will extract more of their juices out. Let them simmer for about 20 minutes then macerate them with a potato masher. Strain the resulting broth and use as a flavor base for the sauce of your dish.
Have all your aromatics ready but instead of getting them into a fine mince, cut them into thin slices. You don't want little vegetable tidbits ruining the perfectly smooth coconut gravy, but you do want them to render as much flavor possible in a relatively short cooking time.
If using fresh tomatoes, core them. Or if using canned, allow the excess juices to drain. Skipping this step will give the sauce a red tint on top of the sour note which could easily overpower that coconut cream. I used canned tomatoes for this recipe like I do with much of my cooking for the fact that only those tomatoes intended to be canned are allowed to fully ripen off the tree. Due to their quick perishability, tomatoes intended for travel are picked prematurely. I'd reserve those fresh tomatoes for my salads, or salsas.
Next, layer all those vegetables at the bottom of your slow cooker. I used this Hamilton Beach slow cooker. They shall serve as a bed for the seafood which could stick to the pot and eventually break given their delicate structure.
Pour in the coconut cream, lime juice, and the shrimp stock which you've prepared earlier. Give the vegetables a cooking headstart of about an hour on a high setting. That should be just enough time for them to render off their flavors without ending up too mushy.
While the base is cooking, season the fish and shrimps. We reserved this step to this last minute to keep our seafood from losing too much moisture if we had chosen to add the salt too early.
Add the seafood into the cream sauce and allow to cook on high for another 15 to 20 minutes. Don't leave the pot at this stage. Only overcooking can ruin perfectly fresh seafood.