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Fish and Shellfish Marmite

Even here in land-locked Burgundy we have a craving for the sea from time to time. Here is a convivial seafood stew to gather round and pick. The most important aspect of this recipe is adding the fish to the simmering sauce in the right order. It may sound complicated but it’s not.

Use good quality Italian plum tomatoes (the variety San Marzano is easy to find) to give the broth a silky texture.

We serve fish stews like this as the Italians do, with warm bruschetta. Half-inch thick slices of good sourdough or rustic type bread, grilled until lightly colored, rubbed with crushed garlic, brushed with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Perfect for dipping in this delicious broth.

Fish and Shellfish Marmite

In a large pot with lid, bring the white wine to a rolling boil and let boil for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the mussels cover and steam until the mussels just open. Remove from the heat and with a slotted spoon put the mussels in a bowl. Cover to keep warm. Put the mussel juice into a small pitcher to settle.

In a mortar and pestle crush the fennel seeds and dried peppers with a tablespoon of sea salt.

In a very large wide bottom sauté pan heat the olive oil and add the garlic slices. When the garlic just start to turn golden add the crushed fennel and after a minute or two the tomatoes. Let the broth cook over a fairly brisk heat for 15 minutes. Strain the mussel juice into the tomato sauce and add your fish stock. Reduce the heat and add the monkfish and grouper to the sauce. Let the fish gently poach for 5 minutes then add the mullet or snapper pieces and the sole. Tuck in the langoustine or shrimps and shake the pan gently to let everything mingle together. Reduce the heat to very low and cover the pan with foil or a lid. Let bubble for 5 minutes more.

Have six large warm shallow bowls ready. Put a large scoop of mussels in each. Gently lift out the fish and divide between the bowls. Taste the broth for seasoning and spoon over the top. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve with a slice or two of warm bruschetta.

For the fish stock:

For this dish you really want to be dealing with a quality fish shop. You therefore should be able get the heads and bones of fish like cod, sole, bream, snapper or hake. A pound or so should do it. Put the fish into a large pot and cover with six cups of cold water. Add a sliced onion, a few peppercorns, bay leaf, celery leaf and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and boil briskly for 20 minutes. Let cool and strain through a fine sieve.

Wine Recommendation: William Nahan Chablis 2011

The minerality of Chablis is a perfect match for most anything that comes from the sea. There’s enough vivacity here to bring out the deeper flavors in the rich broth, and a freshness that keeps the tang of the sea in the air.

Serves: 6
1 pound (460 grams) cleaned mussels
2 cups (480 ml) dry white wine
3 tablespoons fennel seed
3 small dried pepperoncino peppers
Coarse sea salt
6 tablespoons (90 ml) extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves thinly sliced
3 cups (450 grams) whole plum tomatoes in their juice crushed with your hands
4 cups (750 ml) fish stock see below

For the fish:
1 pound (460 grams) monkfish (or grouper) tail cleaned of outer membrane and cut into six pieces
1 pound (460 grams) filet of hake, cod or similar chunky white fish: skin left on and cut into six pieces
6 small filets red mullet or snapper
6 small filets sole rolled and pinned with a toothpicks
12 langoustine or large shrimp

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