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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Venetian Fish Stew

Ah, how I miss dining out. We still go out to dinner, but 99% of the time it's somewhere that along side your basket of bread you also get a packet of crayons. But I'm talking linen table cloths, lots of dressed up adults, and a formidable menu that has no grilled cheese. Just the other day Noyan and I were drooling over memories of bouillabaisse. He asked if I could make some but just knew Amir wouldn't go for it. Besides, the idea of making rouille (a sauce served with bouillabaisse that has 100 or so ingredients) makes me need a nap.

So when I was going through my recipes for the week, I was excited to see one for Venetian Fish Stoup from Everyday with Rachel Ray. It still was a lot of work, but it was Sunday night. And it was a bit on the costly side with all that seafood. But it didn't involve rouille. Game on.

Venetian Fish Stew
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1 pinch saffron threads
Grated peel of 1 lemon
Grated peel of 1/2 orange
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 bulb of fennel with fronds, fronds
chopped and reserved, bulb thinly sliced
1/2 dry white wine
One 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb cod, cut into chunks
1/2 lb medium to large shrimp, deveined and tails removed
1 1/2 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/2 lb squid, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Crusty bread, for dunking
1. In a large, deep skillet or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, curry, saffron and citrus peels and cook for 2 minutes. Add the onion and fennel slices and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Pour in the wine, then add the tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Season all of the seafood with salt and pepper. Add the cod and shrimp, then the mussels and the squid, to the pan. Cover tightly and simmer until cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Uncover and carefully stir the stew. Ladle into shallow bowls and top with fennel fronds. Serve the crusty bread for dunking.
The Verdict: Well, it's not from a fancy restaurant, but it's fancy restaurant good!
Amir ate bread, which was disappointing because he loves fish and shrimp. But Noyan and I both enjoyed it immensely. The citrus zests give it an interesting punch of flavor and the seafood, particularly the squid, were all tender (as compared to little rubber bands as squid tends to do).
The original recipe calls for the zest of an entire orange. I did think that my stew had a bit too much orange flavor and would recommend just half. I also think in the tradition of fish stew, you can mix up your seafood if you like. If scallops are more your thing, omit one of the shellfish. Or replace the cod with a different fish. Or several small pieces of different fish.
Another change from the original recipe is that Rachel Ray calls recipes like this "stoup." It's her way of saying that it's too thick to be soup and too thin to be stew. Something about that word irritates me. Just call it stew. The word "stoup" is, well, "stoup"-id.
If you'd like to try this recipe but have never eaten mussels before, no fear. If you buy a farm-raised bag of them from a reputable place, like Whole Foods, little needs to be done. They should be debearded already; just look to see if there's hairy looking stuff sticking out of your mussel. If there is, yank it out. But don't do it until they're ready to cook or they will die. And speaking of dead, don't cook them if the shell is open. A good test is to squeeze the shell shut. If it stays closed, it's OK, but if it springs back open, throw it away. They shouldn't be gritty, either. But to be on the safe side, give them a scrub in the sink, then let them set in ice water until you're ready to cook.

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