This classic French dish relies on the most fresh and pristine ingredients to create a type of soup that is very light and has lots of flavor and depth. Serve with crusty bread and garlic aioli.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
-10-12 head-on gulf prawns (head-off is fine too but you want good quality shrimp - avoid anything imported from China)
-30 mussels, rinsed and scrubbed
-1 pound rock cod fillet, chopped into pieces (any similar white fish will do such as snapper)
-1 bulb fennel, coarsely chopped
-2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
-1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
-2 leeks, finely chopped
-1 can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
-1 pinch saffron threads
-1 celery rib, diced
-1 bay leaf
-Salt and pepper
-Dragon's tooth hot pepper (optional) - any small hot pepper will do
-1/2 bottle dry white wine
-3 quarts lobster stock (if you don't have lobster stock you can use purchased fish stock)
In a Dutch oven or similar heavy bottomed pot, add olive oil over high heat. When almost smoking add the celery, leeks, fennel, fennel seeds, thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper, lower heat to medium-high and sweat, stirring occasionally. Sauté until soft and broken down, approximately 7-10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown lower heat slightly and add more oil.
Add the crushed tomatoes and sprinkle with a little salt. Bring the heat back to high and stir the tomatoes through. Add the wine and saffron and bring back to a boil. Add the lobster stock and the rock cod and Dragon's tooth pepper (optional). Once at a boil lower the heat and simmer gently for about 30-45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Fifteen minutes before you are ready to serve add the shrimp and clams. In the last five minutes add the mussels. Stir everything through and ladle into large bowls. Garnish with a crostini and garlic aioli.
This is so easy to make, especially with a hand- blender.Ingredients (serves 6):
-1 whole egg
-1 cup of sunflower or safflower oil
-pinch of salt
-2 cloves garlic, chopped
-splash of lemon juice or Sherry vinegar
Crack your egg into the blender container. Add a pinch of salt and the lemon juice or vinegar and the garlic. Pour in 1⁄4 cup of the oil and begin blending. Slowly drizzle in the rest of the
oil until you have a thick emulsion. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Fresh aioli will keep refrigerated for 3 days.
James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com