Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Me and Seafood Stew – A Love Story

Okay, I admit, there hasn’t always been love between seafood stew and I. In fact early on I was practically repulsed by the mere mention of the name:“Seafood stew”?? - not at all appealing.. kind of like "Fish Tacos".. two things you would not normally pair together. But alas, with age I came to appreciate both the great sophistication and simplicity of this dish. Not to mention the fact seafood stew easily lends itself to modification - and when I’m in the kitchen, I’m all about tweaking a recipe to suit my tastes.

My affection for seafood stew can most probably be traced to a quest for a healthy and delicious seafood dish to make on a rainy day. In my search I came across several recipes for Bouillabaisse and Cioppino, (the French and Italian versions of seafood stew respectively). Not having all the seafood on hand that these recipes traditionally call for, I simply improvised –re-creating the recipe with what I did have on hand.

I started by surveying the seafood I happened to have in my fridge – I found shrimp, practically a staple in my house, and some halibut. I also had onions, garlic and some peppers. Okay, I thought, I can make something with this.
I then proceeded to make my version of seafood stew .. which it turns out, I absolutely adored and now make all the time. To feel the love yourself, I've included my basic recipe below. Of course, the magic is that you can easily substitute ingredients based on availability and/or preference. Here's a good tip - keep some Dry Vermouth in your pantry - which is simply white wine fortified with herbs. It's got great flavor and costs less than $6.00 for a regular sized bottle. You can use it wherever white wine is called for, or even when it's not. Just a word of caution, it's flavor can be stronger, and the alcohol content certainly higher, than your average Sauvignon Blanc, so be sure to start by adding just a little vermouth, and then add more to taste. If you need to add more liquid, try chicken stock, clam juice or just some water.

Lastly, don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you, this recipe is so easy and takes only about 30 minutes to cook from start to finish. Prep time is a mere 5-10 minutes of chopping.


  • Cooking spray (like Pam)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped sweet yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped green and red bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups red potato, cubed
  • 1 28 oz. can of chopped seeded peeled tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups clam juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine – or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 or 5 ‘shakes’ of Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/4 pounds white fish fillets, like cod, halibut or sole or tilapia - cut into 3- x 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 - 1/2 pound shrimp and/or scallops, clams or mussels
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

  • Coat a Dutch oven with a generous amount of cooking spray and put on medium-high heat.
  • Add onion, red and green peppers, crushed red pepper, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes.
  • Add potato and the rest of the ingredients through the bay leaf; bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes. Stir in fish, shrimp, etc. and sherry; cook an additional 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and clam and mussel shells open up.
  • Stir in parsley at very end.
  • Serve in bowls with sliced baguette pieces brushed with garlic and olive oil, then broiled for 5 minutes.