Hello, my name is Victoria, and I’m a seafood addict. Shellfish has always been my favorite type of protein — I love it in all forms (mollusks, crustaceans, and all their ilk). I have thanked my lucky stars more than once that I am not allergic to shellfish, because this would be a gastronomic tragedy indeed.
Joe, I’m sorry to say, has never experienced the love affair with seafood like I have. Mostly for one hilarious reason: he doesn’t really love touching his food and getting his hands messy (recently, some friends of ours took us to one of those crab boil places, where they dump all the seafood out on the table and you go to town peeling and eating. It was kind of Joe’s worst nightmare).
So this past Sunday, when I was craving shellfish but knew there was no way the mister would want to indulge a peel-and-eat binge at home, I jumped on his suggestion of a seafood stew. “Don’t worry,” I told him, “No peeling required.”
I ended up making what’s probably been my favorite stew ever — it was luxurious tasting, but still somehow pretty healthy, smelled divine while cooking, and was made all the better with a cold glass of white wine. This stew would be a great thing to make over a weekend (and especially if you’re entertaining a crowd!), but really, you could also prep the base for it, reheat that part after work one day, and throw in the seafood of your choice for an easy weeknight meal. Here’s how I made it:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, white and light green part rinsed thoroughly and finely chopped
1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, peeled and small diced
1 small bulb of fennel, diced (including fronds and leaves)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, small diced
1 red bell paper, seeded and small diced
1 large shallot, peeled sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 quart seafood or fish stock (see note)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flake (more, to taste)
pinch of saffron (see note)
Bouquet garni of 1 sprig of rosemary, 5 sprigs of thyme, and 3 stems of parsley, tied together with butchers twine
10-12 baby potatoes, halved (I used 1″ potatoes)
1 1/2 pounds of littleneck clams, cleaned
1/2 lb calamari, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lobster tail (approx. 3oz), shelled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 lb bay scallops
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used U-15 shrimp, and removed the tails as well)
— kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
— lemon wedges and chopped parsley for garnish
What to do:
In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add in the leek, the onion, the fennel, the garlic, the carrots, the red pepper, and the shallot. Season well with salt and pepper, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables have significantly reduced in volume and are very soft. Brown caramelized bits may also form on the bottom of the pot.
Pour in the white wine and stir, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to release any browned bits. Cook for 1-2 minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate from the mixture. Add in the crushed tomatoes, the seafood stock, the crushed red pepper flakes, and the saffron. Add in the potatoes and the herb bundle. Gently stir, and season again with salt and pepper (remember — you can always add more seasoning later, if it needs it). Cover the pot, bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to low. Allow to cook for 30 minutes. If you are serving the seafood stew on another day, you can cool the mixture at this point and store it for later use.
Once the broth has come together, remove the lid and add the littleneck clams. Cover again and cook for six minutes, until the clams are just beginning to open. Then, add in the rest of the seafood: the calamari, the lobster, the scallops, and the shrimp. Cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the seafood is just cooked through and tender. Serve with lemon wedges (the bright lemon juice is the perfect final touch!), a dusting of chopped parsley, and lots of crusty bread to sop up any extra broth.
Recipe Notes: Saffron is notoriously expensive, though in all honesty, it really adds something special to this stew. I was able to find a small vial of it at Whole Foods for $5.99, and had plenty leftover for the next time I need any. Seafood stock or fish stock can often be found at the fish counter, or a local fish shop — also, check the frozen aisle as sometimes you can find it there. My store didn’t have any, so I used a concentrated version that I added water to, and while I was skeptical, it tasted really good. You can use chicken stock as a replacement, but just be aware that it’s not going to taste the same. For the seafood, note that you can really use any variety of fish and shellfish that you want. Mussels, chunks of cod or halibut, sea scallops, crab — whatever is your favorite or looks good that day!