For those times when you’ve got to entertain in a hurry, it’s a good idea to have a recipe up your sleeve that’s both simple, quick-cooking & so flavorful all that’s needed is some good bread for dunking in the juices: Tomato Fennel Seafood Stew is such a recipe. Using canned tomatoes, fresh fennel, garlic, onion & broth with a little chili to spice things up, this is one of those meals you can plonk down in the middle of the table & let everyone help themselves.Jump to Recipe
People tell me they find seafood daunting to prepare & cook. If you buy the seafood already cleaned, that greatly reduces prep time. And cooking it requires one simple rule – don’t overcook. I used squid that was already cleaned, mussels that had been scrubbed & shrimp that were already peeled & deveined. Scallops are sold already out of their shells (shucked) so all you have to do is remove the little muscle on the side of each scallop (some don’t have one).
The inspiration for this simple, rustic seafood meal comes from the classic Provencal stew – bouillabaisse. This version has fewer steps, uses seafood with no fish & switches Pernod for vermouth. There are no rules though so use what seafood if your favorite. I love this served with crusty bread or buttered toast for sopping up the delicious sauce.
Growing up in Sydney, Australia & traveling up to northern Queensland (think Great Barrier Reef) every year, I ate seafood aplenty. There’s an abundance of all sorts of sea-dwelling creatures at the Sydney Fish Market, one of my most favorite places to visit when I’m home. On my latest trip home last month I ate seafood every day. Here in landlocked Indiana, I usually have to settle for frozen seafood but the Asian market sells it fresh & I buy fresh mussels from a local grocery store, picking them up on the day they’re shipped to them. I love making a big pan of mussels &, like this Tomato Fennel Seafood Stew, I put the pan in the middle of table & let everyone help themselves. Some crusty bread, some good wine & everyone is happy. Check out this Mussels in Sherry Basil Cream recipe.
The fennel, onion, Vermouth, tomato paste, garlic & crushed chili peppers lend their own nuances to this recipe but really, it’s the variety of the seafood that give this stew its flavor. Have the sauce made ahead of time & the bread ready to pop in the oven to warm. At the last minute cook the seafood, pour the wine & you’re ready to eat. Ladle spoonfuls into warm bowl, break bread & dunk it into the luscious red sauce. Life is good grasshopper.
TOMATO FENNEL SEAFOOD
- large, wide pan or pot with a lid
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 large scallops
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed & thinly sliced, reserving some fronds for garnish
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon anchovy paste or 4 anchovy fillets
- 1 cup vermouth or dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons crushed red chili peppers chili flakes
- 14 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, not drained
- 1 cup fish or chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- 16 extra large raw shrimp, peeled & deveined leaving tails intact
- 1 lb squid rings & tentacles
- 1 lb raw mussels
- buttered toast or warm bread, to serve
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Pat the scallops dry using paper towel. If there's a small muscle on the side of each scallop then simply peel it off & discard. Cook scallops for 2 to 3 minutes each side until browned. Remove from pan; set aside.
- Heat the remaining oil in a Dutch oven or large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion & fennel; cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened. Add the garlic & cook for 1 minute until softened & fragrant.
- Add tomato paste, anchovy paste & vermouth. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to cook off the alcohol flavor.
- Add the crushed red peppers, tomatoes & their juice, broth, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, for 7 minutes; stir.