If you are already suffering from feast overload before we've even hit the endpoint, I recommend you take a break with this--dare I say it--healthy meal. It's still festive and far from the spartan measures you may decide to take in a few days. (Poor you, poor everyone. Why do we have to pay for our sins?) It's also pretty easy to prepare. Think of it as a shortcut to making bouillabaisse, its elaborate cousin, in which you tear out your hair sourcing the elements to make fish stock. They have become scarcer and scarcer these days. Who would've though fish heads and bones, such unappetizing sounding ingredients, would be hard to find? Anyway, I don't know about you, but my holiday spirit is dwindling and I'm already eyeing the tree and harboring dark thoughts about its demise.
Nevermind. The whole fish stock thing will not be an obstacle here, and you still end up with a mighty celebratory dish for a winter night. (New Year's Eve perhaps?) A variety of fish and shellfish and a rich tomato broth imbued with saffron, wine, and fresh fennel cancel any doubts that this is a poor relation to the original. You can even make the broth a day or two in advance. That also goes for the croutons, which, if stored in an airtight tin can be revived in a warm oven, just hold off on the garlic until the last minute. If you do so, give yourself about a half an hour to complete the dish (Step 4.)
Leftovers? Just discard the shells, and heat the shellfish, fish chunks, and broth together in a skillet. Add a can of diced tomatoes and simmer while you throw a pot of linguine on the stove. Oh, and hold back some croutons so you can crumble them on top of the pasta. Another festive meal on the table, my friends.
May your days be merry and bright
May your hearts be happy and light
Wishing you a wonderful new year, my friends!
Festive seafood stew with garlic croutons
3/4/ long baguette, cut into 24 slices that are 1/4-inch thick
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Have on hand a baking sheet.
2. On the baking sheet, spread the baguette slices. With a pastry brush, brush them on both sides with oil. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown.
3. Set the sheet on a rack to cool. Scrape the garlic cloves once or twice across each crouton.
1 fennel bulb, stalks separated from the bulb
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound small clams such as littlenecks or steamers
1 pound mussels, scrubbed
1/2 teaspoon saffron
1/2 pound bay scallops
1 1/2 pounds firm, white fish fillets cut into 2-inch chunks (choose 2 or 3 kinds)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. Cut a thin slice off the root end of the fennel bulb. Stand the bulb upright and cut into quarters (lengthwise from top to root end.) With a paring knife, cut out the tough core portion of each quarter. Slice each quarter crosswise into thin slices.
2. In a large casserole over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, anchovies, and fennel. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, orange juice, clam juice, wine, water, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Add the clams, mussels, and saffron to the broth, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the scallops and fish, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and cooked through, and the mussels and clams have opened. (Discard any that remain closed.)
5. With a slotted spoon, divide the fish and shellfish among 6 bowls. Ladle the remaining broth into the bowls. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with garlic croutons.
©2009-2015 Sally Pasley Vargas. Writing and photography, all rights reserved.