MEDITERRANEAN SEAFOOD STEW
All around the Mediterranean, fish soups are made from the day’s catch, and each region has its own different and wonderful variation. Traditionally, fish heads are simmered in seasoned water to make fish stock; but, for quicker preparation, I substitute canned chicken broth. Also, to speed things up, I ask the fishmonger remove the fish skin for this stew, which is elegant enough to serve to your most discriminating holiday guests.
Makes 4 servings (6 cups)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 cup finely chopped onion
• 1 carrot, finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons minced garlic
• 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed, or more to taste
• 1 tablespoon hot water
• 2 (14-ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
• 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
• 3 small red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
• 8 ounces firm white fish (such as sea bass, mackerel, or monk fish), remove and discard skin, cut flesh into 1-inch squares
• 8 ounces sea scallops
• Coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, mix the saffron with the hot water. Set aside.
Pour the chicken broth and tomatoes into the Dutch oven. When the liquid comes to a boil, stir in the potatoes, red pepper flakes, and the saffron mixture. Reduce the heat to medium; cover and cook for 3 minutes or until the potatoes are nearly tender.
Stir in the fish; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the scallops; continue to cook for 2 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the fish is thoroughly cooked.
Garnish the servings with parsley.
Saffron, the yellow-orange stigma of a small purple crocus, is the world’s most expensive spice. Each flower provides only three stigma, which must be handpicked: It takes 14,000 of these to equal 1 ounce of saffron. A little goes a long way and there is no substitute for its exquisite flavor and earthy aroma. Be sure to purchase whole saffron threads. Powdered saffron loses its flavor more readily and can easily be adulterated with less expensive powders like turmeric. Heat releases the flavor, so pinch the threads between your fingers and then soak them in hot (but not boiling) water before using. Store saffron in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
Recipe from THE COMPLETE 15-MINUTE GOURMET
by Paulette Mitchell (Thomas Nelson, October 2008, $24.95)