Friday, February 26, 2016

Zuppe di Pesce

We had dinner at M.s house last week and she made Zuppe di Pesce, translated from Italian meaning “fish soup.” This soup invites a bunch of fish to the party, traditionally the this-and-that pieces that didn’t make it to the market.  These castaways are tossed into a wonderful, tomato-based broth creating quite the escapade for the taste buds.  Included in this brothy tomato-based soup are shell fish, such as shrimp, clams and mussels and meatier sea inhabitants such as scallops and monkfish.

Have you ever seen a monkfish?  I was watching a Martha Stewart video on preparing monkfish and her guest,Eric Ripert, Executive Chef at Le Bernardin in NYC, explained the bottom-dweller monkfish is so scary looking that most fish mongers cut the head off before displaying it at market. Monkfish are abundant off the coast of Europe which explains its popularity in French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese soups, stews and other dishes.  

Monkfish has a mild flavor and texture and is often called the poor-man's lobster.  Serving a loin of Monkfish, perhaps roasted in a casserole of mushrooms, snow peas and asparagus, would certainly be a fancy treat for grateful dinner party guests.

This slurp-worthy recipe is adapted slightly from  

Zuppe di Pesce
1½ pounds of Monkfish Loin, cut into pieces
8 Sea Scallops
8 Jumbo Brown Shrimp, cleaned, tail left on, shells reserved(*see notes)
4 anchovies
1½ pounds clams
½ large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 medium bulb fennel, thinly sliced, a few fennel fronds reserved (see note)
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups San Marzano tomatoes, strained through a food mill
4 cups broth or water
Extra virgin olive oil
Rustic, crusty bread, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil
Note:  The green feathery fronds look a lot like dill but the fennel herb has a much stronger aniseed flavor.
Pat the monkfish and scallops dry and season with salt. Coat a heavy bottomed pot with olive oil and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sear the monkfish on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Remove from pan and place on a rimmed plate or shallow bowl. Add more oil if needed and sear the scallops on both sides, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove and reserve, along with the monkfish.
During any point in this recipe, add a little more olive oil if the pot seems dry.  In the same pot, sauté the anchovies, onions and fennel until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to a clear spot and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Deglaze with about a cup of white wine, scrapping up all of the bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let most of the wine evaporate then add the crushed tomatoes and broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until flavors have united. After 15-20 minutes of simmering, add the monkfish, nestling it into the tomato-y broth, along with any accumulated juices. Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes
Add the shrimp and clams and continue to simmer until the shrimp have almost cooked and the clams and almost opened, 5-10 minutes, depending on the size. At this point, add the scallops, along with any juices, and simmer for another 2 minutes or so until the clams have all opened, the shrimp are cooked and the scallops are heated. Taste broth, add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, as needed.  Divide seafood between bowls and ladle broth, fennel, and onions over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the reserved fennel fronds. Serve with toasted, garlic-rubbed bread.
Image of monkfish from

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