Quick and easy fish stew with a savory tomato broth.
So much of my cooking is off the cuff. My partners tease me gently about how I can make a nice dinner when “there’s nothing in the house”, and my first wife used to say I could make omelets out of a box of saltines and some jelly beans. This, more than any recipe or particular foodstuff, is probably the greatest gift my mother gave me, culinarily speaking: the ability to assess what’s on hand, come up with an interesting idea of what to do with it, and execute it well. Not always perfectly, but well.
Wish I’d taken photos of the bowls of soup we just ate. All I have to show you is what’s left after we had our fill:
I had some white potatoes that didn’t get used in the cjalsòns, and a bit of a craving for fish. Thought about making clam chowder, but creamy soups aren’t really James‘s favorite thing, so I switched gears and decided on this stew, because I had tomatoes in the cupboard and shrimp in the freezer. I am telling you, it was delicious: complex, just the right saltiness, and oh, so fragrant.
And the best part is it was done in well under an hour, so it would make a really good weeknight dinner. Yes, I know it’s Saturday now, but you can do it next time you have fish to use up or something. Feel free to sub any fish at all for the stuff I used. Next time, I think I may try the Korean fish balls we love so much from Koreana Plaza.
Impromptu Fish Stew
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 small thin-skinned potatoes, diced
1 can (15 ounces or so) petite diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon hon-dashi granules or other fish-stock powder, optional
freshly ground black pepper
2 cans (6.5 ounces each) chopped clams, with their liquid
1 cup fresh or frozen peeled shrimp (no need to defrost if frozen)
In a medium, heavy-bottomed soup pot (I used a 2.75-quart dutch oven), heat butter and olive oil until butter melts, then add onion and sauté for just a couple of minutes, until onion barely begins to soften. Add the garlic, celery, and potatoes, and cook a few minutes more. Then add tomatoes, stock powder if using, pepper to taste, and enough water to cover the whole thing by about a half inch.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and boil gently for 20-30 minutes, until potatoes and celery are soft. You may cook this for up to an hour without hurting it, but add the fish ingredients at the very end to avoid overcooking them. 5 minutes before serving, add clams and shrimp. Heat and stir until shrimp are pink and opaque. Taste and adjust seasoning (if you haven’t used stock powder, you may need salt — I’d use sea salt). Serve.
Makes about 2.25 quarts (9 cups), which depending on your situation can either mean eight or so first-course servings, or enough soup to feed three or four hungry people for lunch. This recipe will double or halve perfectly well.
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