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Sardinian Seafood Stew

  • SERVINGS: 8
  • MAKE-AHEAD

This stew, called cassola is said to be Catalan in origin, but it similar to stews from all over the Mediterranean. What makes it Sardinian is the use of native fish, such as gurnard, sea robin, eel, skate, bream and mullet as well as tiny squid octopus, baby clams and small crabs. This recipe is Nancy Harmon Jenkins's version of the stew served at La Ghinghetta, a delightful restaurant in the little fishing port of Portoscuso—made with seafood that is widely available in the United States.

If you have any fish bones or shells after cleaning the seafood for the stew, add them to the fish stock.

FISH STOCK

  1. 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 1/2 pounds non-oily fish heads and bones, well rinsed
  3. 2 medium leeks, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  4. 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  5. 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
  6. 3 thyme sprigs
  7. 2 parsley sprigs
  8. 1/2 cup dry white wine
  9. 6 cups water
  10. 1 medium tomato, chopped
  11. 1 bay leaf
  12. Salt

STEW

  1. 2 dozen littleneck clams or cockles, scrubbed and rinsed
  2. Two 1 1/2-pound live or cooked lobsters
  3. 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  4. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  5. 6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  6. 3 pounds plum tomatoes—peeled, seeded and finely chopped
  7. 1/2 cup dry white wine
  8. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  9. Large pinch of crushed red pepper
  10. 1 pound monkfish fillet, dark portions trimmed off, fish cut into 6 pieces
  11. 2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  12. 1 pound cleaned small squid, bodies cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings, tentacles left whole
  13. 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
  14. 8 slices of toasted country bread, drizzled liberally with extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  1. Heat the olive oil in a small stockpot. Add the fish heads and bones, leeks, shallot, celery and the thyme and parsley sprigs. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the fish bones turn white and the vegetables and herbs are fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the water, tomato, bay leaf and a large pinch of salt and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Skim any foam that rises to the surface and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the stock for 20 minutes, skimming often.
  3. Slowly pour the stock into a fine strainer set over a saucepan, leaving the solids at the bottom of the stockpot. You should have 4 cups; if not, simmer the strained stock until it has reduced to 4 cups.
  4. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Add the clams, cover and cook over high heat until they open, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer any opened clams to a bowl. Cover and continue until all of the clams have opened. Reserve the liquid in the saucepan.
  5. If using live lobsters, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the lobsters, cover and cook for 12 minutes, then drain and let cool slightly. Twist off the tails and remove the claws. Crack the claws and remove the meat. Using kitchen shears, cut down 1 side of the tails and remove the meat from the shells in 1 piece. Make a thin cut down the center of the outside of the tails and remove the intestinal veins. Cut the tails crosswise into thick medallions.
  6. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, cook the onion in the 1/2 cup of olive oil over moderately low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil; simmer for 2 minutes. Pour in the fish stock. Add the reserved clam cooking liquid, stopping before you reach the sediment at the bottom. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and black pepper and add the crushed red pepper.
  7. Add the monkfish to the casserole and gently stir it in. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes, then add the shrimp and squid. Cover and cook until the squid is just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved clams and lobster meat and cook just until all of the seafood is heated through. Stir in the chopped parsley.
  8. Put a piece of toast in the bottom of each soup plate and ladle the fish stew on top, making sure that each serving includes some of each variety of seafood. Sprinkle the stew with parsley and serve as soon as possible.
Make Ahead The recipe can be prepared through Step 6 and refrigerated for up to 1 day; chill the seafood and stock separately.

Suggested Pairing

Vermentino di Sardegna, a Sardinian white wine, has refreshing citrus notes that add contrast to the flavors of the fish.

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