Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fish Stew

The winds they are a-blowin’ and we in New England were just hit with our first batch of (thankfully little) snow of the season. Yesterday was downright raw, and a day such as that just begs for hot soup.

The silky, smooth purees of potato or butternut squash are perfect for the Thanksgiving table, and the hearty Italian meatball zuppa are great for when you’ve got lots of prep and cooking time, but when it’s late afternoon on a blustery day, and you decide you’ve got to have soup soon, those are not the perfect choices. 

Soup is one of the easiest things to make if you’ve got the right ingredients on hand. If you’ve got a bunch of bags of frozen veggies in the freezer and some boxes of good chicken broth in the pantry, a pot of hot soup can be yours in a snap. Throw in chopped tomatoes, and finish it off with some cooked pasta or rice and a sprinkling of dried herbs, and you’re good to go.

Chowders are very popular here in New England, and they do have their place: they taste of the sea and are perfect for when you’re sitting at a wooden picnic table behind a tiny clam shack smack on the coast of Maine in July. I love the little round crackers you can float on top. But I’m a New York girl at heart and the tomato-based red chowders are more to my liking. I’ve been throwing together a simple fish stew lately that is a cross between a Manhattan Clam Chowder (without the clams) and Bouillabaisse, a Provencal fish stew. The soup can be made as simply or as complex as you prefer, depending upon the types of seafood you use--I’ve just been using haddock and shrimp, but adding mussels and/or clams can only burnish its flavor. The broth is light, making this dish reasonably low in calories, but the fish and vegetables make for a very filling entree. Add some toasted baguette and a salad and you’ve got a meal that just may soften the sting of the foofaraw going on outside your window.

Fish Stew (little round crackers are optional)
(adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions (1 medium)
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fennel (1/2 large bulb)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup good white wine

  • 1 (14-ounce) can plum tomatoes, with juice, chopped
  • 1 quart fish stock, or chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 pound large, frozen shrimp, thawed

  • 1 pound haddock, cut into thick hunks
  • 12 mussels, cleaned (opt.)
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • Toasted baguette slices, buttered and rubbed with garlic

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot, add the onions, celery, and fennel, and cook until the onions begin to brown. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes with their juices, stock, garlic, and turmeric to the pot, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the fish, and mussels (if using), bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the thawed shrimp. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit covered for another 5 minutes. The fish should be cooked and the mussels opened. Discard any mussels that don't open. Stir in the orange zest, and salt, to taste. Serve ladled over 1 or 2 slices of toasted baguette.


  1. Sounds yummy and inviting. I love anything fish and a steaming warm fish stew on a cold day! If I was closer I would ask for an invite.

  2. This sounds amazing. I wish Peter liked fish more.

    1. It's so easy to make, that it's worth just making it for yourself!

  3. Wow so yummy and tasty recipe. I love this food so much...great post.
    Relocation to Charlotte