Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
~~ M.F.K. Fisher, preeminent American food writer 1908-1992.
Ms. Fisher’s life and writing embodies the essence of food as more than sustenance. I share her enthusiasm for “sharing food” in an intimate way with the love of my life and my husband of 33 years, Mark Andersen. We enjoy food in this context on a regular basis on “date night.” The night of the week may change according to our schedules, but we make it a priority to enjoy a special meal together at least monthly. Seafood Stew With Saffron-Infused Broth is definitely worthy of a date night… 🙂
Our most recent soirèe romantique provided a perfect opportunity to use the leftover mirepoix that I had frozen from our Christmas dinner Osso Bucco. Given the fact that mirepoix involves finely chopping large quantities of onion, carrots, and celery, this turned out to be a great time-saver. My “well-stocked pantry” always includes saffron, tomatoes, potatoes, stock/broth, so my trip to the local market just involved purchasing fresh seafood and rainbow chard. In spite of arriving home well after dark, I had this lovely, aromatic stew on the table before 8:00. This is not to say I rushed the process 🙂 There is joy in the journey… and usually a glass of wine!
The key to putting together an excellent seafood stew lies in selecting the best quality ingredients available and choosing ingredients that harmonize with one another. I had decided on a Spanish-inspired stew. Spanish flavors include the prized saffron and Spanish chorizo (a sausage typically made with pork and smoked paprika) that I included in this recipe. A Portuguese version might include linguiça and kale, while a French version might feature fennel and herbes de provence. The method is more important than a recipe, but gaining the confidence to create rather than follow is a process.
Flexibility in choosing ingredients is important on a couple of different levels: 1. Optimal results are achieved when you use the freshest, seasonal ingredients. 2. Learning to make appropriate substitutions can relieve stress and make planning and cooking a meal a positive rather than a negative experience. For example: After I make a decision to prepare seafood stew for my husband for our “date night,” I make an ostensibly “quick” trip to my favorite natural foods store for fish. My recipe calls for fresh cod, rainbow chard, and Spanish chorizo. When I arrive at the market, much to my dismay, there is no fresh cod because it is late in the day. Swiss chard is out of season, and Spanish chorizo is often difficult to find in our small town. Rather than panic and try coming up with “plan B” at a moment’s notice, I think about possible substitutions. The market has fresh red snapper – another firm, mild white fish – on sale. A sturdy bunch of kale makes a good substitute for the chard, and a bit of pancetta makes a good substitute for the chorizo. Of course the flavor profile has now become more Italian than Spanish, but a good bottle of chianti or pinot grigio, and you’re back in business…
A lovely, aromatic dish perfect for a romantic evening... Savory broth is packed with fish and/or seafood and healthy vegetables.
15 minPrep Time
30 minCook Time
45 minTotal Time
- 1 large pinch of saffron
- 1 cup white wine*
- A drizzle of olive oil
- 1 small spanish or red onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, very finely chopped (you want the flavor, but not big chunks)
- 1 stalk celery, very finely chopped (again - flavor not chunks)
- 2-3 oz. Spanish chorizo, 1/4" cubes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp. from a jar)
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (or to taste)
- 4 cups stock (shrimp, fish, or chicken, but make sure it is a good quality if not homemade)
- 2 small potatoes (prefer yukon gold), small dice to ensure quick cooking
- 1 can petite diced tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves*
- 1 bunch rainbow chard, stems chopped in 1/2" slices and leaves coarsely chopped
- 1/2 lb. firm fish fillets (cod, snapper, halibut), cut in bite-sized pieces*
- 4 large prawns, peeled and de-veined
- 1/2 lb.-1 lb. mussels in their shells, cleaned and trimmed
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- parsley and lemon to garnish
- * See Notes
Add the pinch of saffron to the white wine, and allow to soak for at least 10 minutes.
In a heavy dutch oven on medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the finely chopped onion, carrots, and celery (mirepoix.) Using a wooden spoon, stir the vegetables occasionally.
Add the chorizo, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Stir until onions are translucent and chorizo begins to brown and render its fat.
De-glaze the pot with the saffron and wine. Stir up the browned bits.
Add the stock, potatoes, diced tomatoes in their juice, bay leaves, and chopped chard stems. Bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes.)
Add chard leaves, fish, and shellfish. Cover pot. Simmer until fish and prawns are barely opaque (about 2-3 minutes.)
Check for seasoning.
Ladle into large soup bowls.
Garnish with fresh, chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley and a wedge of lemon.
Serve with toasted baguette smeared with roasted garlic and topped with shaved pecorino or parmesano reggiano. Broil just until cheese begins to melt.
Don't use a wine that you won't drink.
I love fresh bay! I went to the local nursery and purchased a small potted bay plant for about .00, and I've been using it since September.
I recommend using the freshest fish and shellfish combination you can get. Don't overlook frozen if you live in a land-locked location and can't get fresh. I've even been able to find frozen New Zealand Mussels and clams in the freezer section. Calamari and scallops are also great options!
- Do try to be flexible when shopping for ingredients! Any firm, mild fish works fine. If the shrimp smells funny (this has happened to me,) or the price is prohibitive on the mussels, choose a different combination of fish and shellfish.
- Shrimp or fish stock is preferred but a good chicken stock is fine.
- Don’t use wine that you wouldn’t want to drink.
- I love to include mussels or clams in my stew, but living in Las Cruces, I cannot always get them (or trust them 🙂 .) I have found the New Zealand mussels available in the freezer section to be very good.
- If you can’t find fresh fish and shellfish, you can get a good result with frozen.
- Once you add the fish and shellfish to the stew, you don’t want to boil it, and you do want to watch it carefully. Over-cooked fish and shellfish, according to my husband, resembles “an old boot!”
- If you ask the deli counter to cut the chorizo (or pancetta) 1/4″ thick, you will save time prepping the 1/4″ cubes. I usually ask for 2-1/4″ thick slices if I’m serving 2.