In the summertime I can’t get enough seafood—thick swordfish steaks on the grill and whole sea bass fresh from the water, towers of chilled, glistening oysters and mountains of icy shrimp. But in the cold months, I tend to reach for plump roasting chickens and beef braising cuts, forgetting all about seafood. This is a silly mistake—what could be more cold-defying and gut-warming than a spicy seafood stew mopped up with good, crusty bread? Despite the lengthy list of ingredients, this hearty soup comes together easily and requires only that you buy the freshest seafood possible from a source you trust. Feel free to omit or add different fish or shellfish, the broth will adapt easily to anything that looks best at the market.
Spicy Seafood Stew
1/2 cup olive oil
1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, some fronds reserved for garnish
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flake (adjust or omit if you’re spice sensitive)
3/4 pound cleaned squid, bodies cut into rings, tentacles left as is
2 cups dry white wine
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cups chicken stock
8 oz clam juice
3/4 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed and soaked for 1 hour in cool, heavily sea-salted water (this will help purge the sand out)
3/4 pound mussels, de-beareded and scrubbed
3/4 pound large uncooked shell-on shrimp
1 pound skinless bass filet, cut into 2 inch cubes
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Crusty bread for serving
In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add fennel and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until both are soft and fragrant but not browned—about 10 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook until garlic is soft, about 3 minutes.
Add squid and lower heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Add the wine and raise the heat to medium high. Bring the wine up to a boil and lower the heat to simmer until most of the wine has evaporated—about 20 minutes.
Once most of the wine has evaporated, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture has thickened—about 40-50 minutes.
Stir in chicken broth and clam juice and bring to a low boil. Add clams, mussels, and shrimp and cover, cooking until all of the clam and mussel shells have opened and the shrimp is pink—about 5 minutes (remove and discard any mussels or clams that don’t open). Add the fish and cook until it is opaque throughout—about 3-5 minutes more.
Season broth with salt and black pepper to taste.
Ladle stew into bowls and top with reserved fennel fronds and chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread.
By, Cara Nicoletti