A Rich Tomato Based Stew
The inspiration for this easy, one pot meal came from a fridge and freezer cleanup. It's a standard base of the classics: onions, carrots, and celery, enlivened by garlic, canned tomatoes and the rich scent and taste of saffron.
Use any seafood you prefer (I use cod), being sure to add it at the last minute to preserve its texture, after the vegetables and stock have had a chance to simmer for a while. The ingredients can vary- add beans, grains, use your imagination and whatever's on hand in the pantry -but don't skimp on the saffron which gives this stew its heady flavor. In true French fashion, I like to stir in rouille, a red pepper mayonnaise, at the last minute along with chopped scallions and parsley for a garnish. You could substitute aioli (garlic mayonnaise), or even use a bit of regular mayo- it gives it a slight tang and a touch of creaminess, but feel free to skip it and enjoy its rich tomato goodness just as it is.
Saffron Seafood Stew
- Heat the olive oil in a deep-sided skillet or dutch oven over a medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the diced onions, carrots and celery.
- When the vegetables have begun to soften and turn translucent, add the chopped garlic and the saffron threads and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic becomes fragrant, about 4 minutes.
- Add the Pernod or White Wine and deglaze the pan, allowing the alcohol to evaporate from the liquor, stirring to get the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, stir to combine thoroughly, and let simmer for 3-5 minutes, then stir in the fish stock or clam juice.
- Let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding water if needed to thin the consistency a bit.
- Pierce the potatoes with a sharp knife, and if they're done, add the seafood and stir to combine.
- Watch the seafood as it cooks in the hot liquid- once it's opaque it's done, as it will continue to cook as it sits in the stew. Shrimp will opaque, and shellfish should open when they're done (you might want to add a top to the pot to hurry them along a bit).
- When the fish has cooked, you can stir in the rouille, aioli, or mayonnaise if using, until well-blended, then garnish with chopped scallions and parsley. Note: There are many excellent ready-made versions of rouille or aioli available in the market, but you can make a quick version of aioli by mashing 2 cloves of garlic into a paste with a bit of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, add 1/4 teaspoon of dijon mustard and stir in 1/2 cup of regular mayonnaise.