My mother was recently out to visit and decided she would walk back from the local library to our house. If you’ve read, Good, Cheap, and Fast, you know that our neighborhood has its wonderful parts and its decidedly not so wonderful parts. Tall, beautiful, unfailingly elegant, and refined, to put it simply, my mother is not the kind of person you typically see walking around the ‘hood.
As she was hoofing it back from the library (she is known to walk everywhere quickly and with purpose), she ran into two older women decked out in their Sunday finest making their very slow trek up the sidewalk. My mother smiled at them, charged on by, and then heard one of them shout out in a Southern accent, “Lord have mercy…you lost?!?”. My mother burst out laughing, thanked them for their concern, assured them she was just fine, and completed her march home.
Having popped open a bottle of wine and subsided in our chuckling about my wayward mother we decided to make Seafood Stew (a meal representing a part of the country she’s definitely not lost in; the East Coast).
Making your own seafood stock makes this a particularly labor intensive project so I’d skip that. The fennel and saffron however must not be passed over. Feel free to substitute the shellfish/fish for whatever you fancy. You want about 4 lbs of seafood total.
This makes quite a large batch, serving 8-10. Serve with a dry white wine, crusty bread or popovers, and chilled butter.
3 TB Olive Oil
2 small yellow onions diced
2 cups large-diced white potatoes
2 cups chopped fennel (about 1 large bulb…save the leaves for garnish)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cups good white wine
28 ounces canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1 quart Seafood Stock
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp saffron threads
1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined (it’s often easier to do this after you lightly steam them)
2 lbs hearty white fish (such as halibut or bass) de-boned and cut into large chunks
24 mussels, cleaned
1. Heat the oil in a stock pot, add the onions, potatoes, fennel, salt, and pepper, and saute over medium-low heat for 15 minutes until the onions begin to brown.
2. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes with their juices, stock, garlic, and saffron to the pot, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
3. Add the shrimp, fish, and mussels, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit covered for another 5 minutes. The fish and shrimp should be cooked and the mussels opened. Discard any mussels that don’t open.
4. Serve in high-sided bowls with the fennel garnish.
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris