Saturday, February 23, 2013

New England Fish Stew

Readers who have noticed a diminution in the fish recipes are right. My husband finally rebelled against eating his solitary steak while the rest of the guests chowed down on shellfish. And, I happened to notice that other members of the family who will remain nameless were leaving most of their dinner on their plates. So I backed off fish.   
Thank goodness for the Saint Margaret's dinner group, which had a  potluck dinner on Friday night. The hostess asked me if I could make a main course, since there were about 25 guests. I leapt to the cookbook.  Therein remains about 4 recipes for clam pie and Martha's Vineyard Stonewall Bouillabaise, which has a truly awesome ingredient list including 80 mussels, 80 cherrystone clams and six, count 'em, six lobsters. I would have to take out a loan. However, New England Fish Stew seemed doable.  
On Friday morning, I got on the phone to the Fishery, my local purveyor, and ordered the ingredients, including two cooked lobsters.

 If you have a recipe that requires cooked lobster meat, get the store to do it. It saves time and doesn't cost any more. I had intended to go to the fish stand at Eastern Market, which seemed to be substantially cheaper than the upper crust Fishery, but my four day old chest cold made me not want to truck across town on the Metro.
It was a gray, raw day with the temperature hovering around 32 degrees and a persistent drizzle. The weather forecast was predicting all kinds of dire events, such as sleet, freezing rain, snow, and all of the above. The city had positioned snowplows at the ends of the major streets, where they sat lined up with their engines running like bloodhounds straining at the leash. 
 The stew was amazingly easy to make. I went upstairs to take a nap around 4:00 and did not come down until 5:30. The stew was finished by 6:37. It was all chop and dump. The guests at the potluck raved about it. I didn't bring any rice, but luckily, one of the other guests, who brought some amazing chicken, also  produced a big pot of fluffy white rice. Just the thing. 
If you make this, do make rice. It has a ton of liquid, which needs mopping up.

New England Fish Stew

1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic
3/4 diced celery
2 cups fresh or  bottled clam juice
1 cup water
2 one-pound  tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon saffron
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound whiting fillets, cut into two-inch pieces
1  pound cod fillets, cut into two-inch pieces
1 pound scallops (bay scallops are much cheaper than sea scallops.)
2 small cooked lobsters or two cups cooked lobster meat

1. Melt the butter and saute the onions and garlic in it until tender.
2. Add the celery, clam juice, water, tomatoes, thyme,  bay leaf, saffron, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer ten minutes.
3.  Add the whiting, cod and scallops and cook eight minutes, or until fish flakes easily. Remove the lobster meat from cooked lobsters, if used. Add lobster meat to stew. Makes eight servings.

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